The Mercurial Emperor: The Magic Circle of Rudolf II in Renaissance Prague

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Pimlico, 2007 - Prague (Czech Republic) - 276 pages
2 Reviews
In the late 16th century the greatest philosophers, alchemists, astronomers, painters, and mathematicians of the day flocked to Prague to work under the patronage of the Holy Roman Emperor. The Theatre of the World is the enchanting story of Rudolf II, an emperor more interested in the great minds of his times than in the exercise of his immense power. Rarely leaving Prague Castle, he gathered around him a galaxy of famous figures: among them the painter Arcimboldo, the astronomer Tycho Brahe, the mathematician Johannes Kepler, the philosopher Giordano Bruno and the magus John Dee. Entranced, like Hamlet, with 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 a deepening melancholy and an ambitious younger brother. As a result he lost his empire and nearly his sanity but 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 an intriguing and dramatic human story. 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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User Review  - TheDivineOomba - LibraryThing

A very enjoyable read - its fast paced, doesn't get too bogged down in the details. Its an interesting history that not too many people know about. The biggest thing I got out of this book was that ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Stbalbach - LibraryThing

I first heard about Rudolf II while reading a history of collecting. Even though Rudolf II was Holy Roman Emperor, king of the largest empire in Europe, that part of his life is the least interesting ... Read full review

About the author (2007)

Dr Peter Marshall has written widely on cultural and intellectual history and is the author of more than a dozen books translated into eleven languages, including The Philosopher's Stone: A Quest for the Secrets of Alchemy, World Astrology and Europe's Lost Civilization. His travel writing includes the books Around Africa and Celtic Gold. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society.

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