Beyond Words A Diary about literature

Why Literature

You develop the insight of an artist, the analytical precision of a scientist and the persuasiveness of a lawyer - Prof. Maureen Moran, Brunel University

Geoffrey Chaucer

December 2016

We started talking about Geoffrey Chaucer, who is regarded as the father of English literature. We immediately analyzed his major poem: The Canterbury Tales. Through this story, the English poet gave a portrait of English society from the 14th century, telling the story of thirty people who are going on a pilgrimage to Canterbury.

I didn't really enjoy it so much because it is not my favorite kind of genre and it appears too similar to Boccaccio's Decameron. As a matter of fact, Chaucer showed much interested in the Italian poetry. In addition to the novelist, he was fascinated by Petrarch and Dante.

However, I appreciated the ironic way which the writer adopted to describe the characters and the stories. I found amazing how the pilgrimages were just a group of normal people when they were together, while taken individually each one of them was an unique character with different aspects and particulars that made her or him stand out of the mass.

Between all the people, the one I preferred talking about was The Wife of Bath. Her description and the tale she told made us understand what kind of person she really is. Chaucer showed it much clearly, thanks to his strong physical and psychological narration. He wanted to draw an hyperbolic woman who could make us reflect upon the condition of women during Middle Age. In my opinion he achieved it.

William Shakespeare

January 2017

We introduced William Shakespeare, the most important and most famous writer in the English literature.


What impressed me the most was that he coined an enormous amount of words that we still use nowadays!

Heart of gold
Knock knock! Who’s there?
Own flesh and blood

These are just some of my favorites. The English language would not be the same as it currently is without the influence of Shakespeare. It also includes the sphere of swear words, which got a huge contribution from the Bard. We put some of our imagination and created some: they sound weird. I think the insults' vocabulary evolved drastically during the last five centuries because the difference between Shakespeare's offenses and ours is massive. I would never tell someone he is a "dissembling guts-griping vassal". Or it may be.

February 2017

My mistress' eyes, Shall I compare thee, and Like as the waves are just 3 out the 154 sonnets Shakespeare composed. Between the three, the one I prefer is the second, without doubts.

Sonnet 18

Apparently, the poem looks like a statement of praise about the beauty of the addressee; summer tends to unpleasant extremes of windiness and heat, but the beloved is always mild and temperate. The language is not too embellished, due to the lack of alliteration or assonance, which are characteristic of the previous sonnets.

The main theme of the sonnet is the power of the speaker’s poem to defy time and last forever, being able of carrying the beauty of the beloved down to future generations. The loved person's eternal beauty cannot fade because this sonnet is its representation: “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”

March 2017

Elizabeth I

While William Shakespeare was writing his plays, Elizabeth I was Queen of England.

The Indomitable Female Fortress

She gave her name to a golden age of poets, statesmen and adventurers. Known as the Virgin Queen, she reigned using her virginity as the key instrument of her power. Her administration is remembered for many reasons: for great men like Shakespeare and for the defeat of the Spanish Armada, overwhelmed by the strategy of the Queen, who achieved to win thanks to the encouraging speech she gave her soldiers in Tilbury.

I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust.

Elizabeth I gained the respect and the love of her people with that speech. She showed courage and audacity, and this is what the country needed at that moment. She used the speech to dispel any worries regarding her competence as a leader and also to ensure the troops to have faith that the English empire would surely be the winner.

The Queen was very careful with the tone in which she declared her point of view. As the speech was meant to motivate the troops, she had to emphasize the idea that she herself was also fighting amongst the soldiers. As a matter of fact, the interests of the English empire and the Queen herself are being served.

Through the use of language, the queen tried to project the idea that the troops were to fight for themselves, not for the Queen’s sake. This contributed to the purpose of the speech, which was to ensure that the troops were motivated to fight off the invading army.


The first Shakespeare's tragedy we approach was Hamlet, one of the most known plays by the English poet.

Hamlet played by Benedict Cumberbatch

The fact I adored the most about Hamlet's soliloquy is the simplicity of language used by the playwright, which guarantees that Hamlet’s question will be interpreted by the whole audience: the "To be, or not to be" line uses the most basic verb in the vocabulary, one without which English itself would surely be impossible to speak. The verb is then formulated in the infinitive, “to be”, rather than specified to any specific noun or pronoun.

Shakespeare compresses the issue of existence to its simplest and most abstract form, making the audience think about the real meaning of life. He avoids any image or particular reference that could give the dilemma an easy look. This is for sure one reason why the phrase has resounded throughout our literate culture.

Prince Hamlet is portrait as a very confused man, unsure of himself and unable to make a decision. In the monologue there is huge evidence of this: he contemplates whether or not he should end his own life and at the same time he considers taking revenge for his father’s death. Overthinking brings him to madness.

Created By
Leonardo De Clara


Created with images by AnnieSpratt - "aged bookcase books" • Stifts- och landsbiblioteket i Skara - "Gottfried Chaucer" • tonynetone - "William Shakespeare"

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