The Theatre of the World: Alchemy, Astrology and Magic in Renaissance Prague
At the turn of the 17th-century the greatest philosophers, alchemists, astronomers, and mathematicians of the day flocked to Prague to work under the patronage of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II. The city was the centre of a cultural and scientific revolution kindled and encouraged by the Emperor the effects of which are felt even today.
The Theatre of the World is the enchanting story of Rudolf II, an emperor more interested in the great talents and minds of his times than in the exercise of his power. Rarely leaving Prague Castle, he gathered aroudn him a galaxy of famous figures: the Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, the German mathematician Johannes Kepler, and the English magus John Dee.
Entranced, like Hamlet, by the new Renaissance learning, Rudolf found it nearly impossible to make decisions. Like Faust, he was prepared to risk all in the pursuit of magical knowledge and the Philosopher's Stone which would turn base metals into gold and prolong life indefinitely. But he also faced the threats of religious discord and the Ottoman empire, along with deepening melancholy and an ambitious younger brother. As a result he lost his empire and nearly his sanity but had enabled Prague to enjoy a golden age of peace and creativity before Europe was engulfed in the Thirty Years' War.
The Theatre of the World is a beguiling and dramatic human story involving the great sweep of culture and history. It is filled with angels and devils, high art and low cunning, talismans and stars, and offers a captivating perspective on a pivotal moment in the history of western civilisation.
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