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.


During the course of the play, the reader is given the ability to see the similarities, differences, and disintegrations of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The first was introduced as a character with no motivation, while his wife was provocative and strong. Their relationship had always directly affected each other's decisions and actions. They shared their deepest thoughts, but as the tragedy proceeded, she lost her grip on control, and his murderous motivation gathered a speed of its own. By the end of the play, the once deceitful Lady Macbeth emerges as a character that actually has a conscience, while Macbeth, also guilty or murder, fights Macduff and faces his end with dignity.

One of the best themes of this tragedy was the conflict between reason and passion, which can be easily noticed in the dialogues amid the Macbeth spouses. During their debates over which course of action to take, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth used different persuasive strategies. Macbeth is very rational, contemplating the consequences and implications of his actions. He recognizes the political, ethical, and religious reason why he should not slay the king. He is well aware he is going to jeopardize his afterlife. On the other hand, Lady Macbeth has a more passionate way of examining the pros and cons of killing Duncan. She is motivated by her feelings and uses emotional arguments to persuade her husband to commit the evil act.

The aspect that struck me the most was the major parallels between Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a four hundred years old tragedy, and House of Cards, an American political drama which was premiered in 2013. The main characters in the series, Frank and Claire Underwood, reflect the features of the Macbeths. Claire, like Lady Macbeth, is as power hungry, if not more so, than her husband. She, too, supports his rise to power by whatever means necessary. Somethings her emotions can be dangerous and can hurt the political project to which she aspires. On several occasions, Frank mentions that he greatly desires power over money and despises people who are the other way around. He, also like Macbeth, is ruthless and willing to kill anyone who gets in his way. The only people that Claire and Frank seem to care about other than themselves are each other. They really do seem to be in love and they support each other through thick and thin. And most importantly they both ultimately have the same goal: power.

Summer Readings

July 2017

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

In The Perks of Being a Wallfower, the author Stephen Chbosky cleverly explores typical youth themes such as mental health, substance abuse and sexuality, while simultaneously reminding the reader about how exciting it is to be young.

The cast of characters is diverse. The female characters are numerous and as well developed as their male counterparts. Chbosky’s approach is always resolute, even when the content is upsetting. Under the narration, it is hidden a desire to acknowledge the complexities in other people, an understanding that define Charlie, the lead character, as a “Wallflower”.

I think Patrick, one of Charlie’s friends, explains the whole title in the first part of the book “He’s a wallflower”, “You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.”. A wallflower is a seemingly shy person who no one really knows, but often is one of the most interesting individual. He remains at the side at a party or dance, usually near the wall, like some kind of flower. Perhaps this is the real origin of the term, to me it seems like a great definition.

One of the things I found most interesting was Chbosky’s discussion of sexuality. For example, Charlie used to kiss boys in the neighborhood when he was little and this concerned his father. Similarly, Charlie’s grandfather doesn’t like to hug family members, especially the boys. The contrast between the older generations’ fear of homosexuality and Charlie’s acceptance of Patrick is indicative of the way that society’s view on homosexuality was changing in the 1990s.

When I first read the book, I was Charlie. Although our backgrounds were in some ways different, I could live his life through his letters. As Charlie himself said: “It's strange because sometimes, I read a book, and I think I am the people in the book”. This is the strength of the author’s writing. Instead of trying to mimic the book’s epistolary voice, the movie brings you into this familiar world through the usual cinematic points of view, by way of Charlie’s eyes, voice and flashbacks. The result is marvelous but it cannot compete with Chbosky’s writing.

Another aspect of the story that changed between the book and and film adaptation is the role of the family towards the main character. In the novel many relatives are listed and we can read about some family’s events that occurred in the present and also the past, whilst the movie display few family scenes, which include at most the parents and siblings.

A change I really appreciated was the song that the three characters listen to while they're driving through the tunnel: “Heroes” by David Bowie fits much better than “Landslide”. I cannot imagine that scene with different music.

Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn't stop for anybody.


Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a classic about a scientist who creates a monster and the awful events he unintentionally causes.

I enjoyed this book, which ultimately questions us what it is to be human. I think the novel provides the fundaments on which every book that has been written about artificial intelligence since Frankenstein rely on. For this particular reason I found it really contemporary, despite being written two hundred years ago, when people could not even imagine what robotics was.

The brilliance of the book lies in Shelley’s depiction of the creature. She could have made him a zombie-like monster and typical murderous villain, but instead she infused him with a brilliant mind and a complicated heart. The agony he feels is represented as so real that you can’t help but empathize with his unnatural existence and doomed crisis. In many ways, he is much more sympathetic than his creator, and that’s what makes it such a fascinating read.

I liked the fact that although Frankenstein sees his monster as a brutal demon, the book allows readers to see events from the monster's perspective. I liked the chapters in the story that were narrated by the monster because I sympathised with his loneliness, while I thought Victor Frankenstein was arrogant and self-righteous. Eventually it is Frankenstein who must answer for the monstrous act committed by his creation.

Generally this book can be considered as a horror story but I have to disagree. More than anything else this is a sad book, when you think about what would have happened if the monster had not been so alone, and if every human had not rejected him in the way they did. The hostile view towards the creature brought him to act as what he never wanted to be.

There are more differences between the book and the film adaptation from 1931 than there are similarities. A notable variation is the articulation of the monster's speech. In Shelley's book, the creature taught himself to read with books of classic literature and he also learns to speak clearly. In the 1931 film, the creature is completely mute except for grunts and growls. In this way the creature’s thoughts are not expressed and we cannot get to know his character as deep as in the book.

In Mary Shelley's original novel, the creature's savage behavior is his conscious decision against his maltreatment because of his inhuman appearance, whilst in the film adaptation it is said that his condition is principally caused by Frankenstein's assistant Fritz, who has provided a inadequate brain to be used for the creature. This change in the plot suggests that the monster's brutal behavior could not be overcome by the development of consciousness.

Being a 86 years old movie made me realized how much the cinema industry as changed since then. Camera movements are nearly absent, the actors tend to move towards the scene while the camera follows the characters less frequently. Close-up shots happen often to stress the importance of what is taking place.

While I was watching the movie I did not notice the soundtrack very much with few exceptions. Therefore I believe they wanted to underline the most meaningful parts trying to catch the viewers’ attention.

Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.

Stop Wasting Time

Among all the recommended videos I chose the one entitled “Stop Wasting Time” because I needed some kind of motivation to start working on my homework and I guessed this could be the most appropriate one.

While watching the video I kept seeing myself as the author and I realized that what he was talking about actually happens to me all time! The “I’ll do it later”, the “putting things off”, I deal with them more than I want to admit. For example, I always hand in my homework just before the deadline, though I could have done that long time ago. I ignore some important decisions or problems I have to deal with until I necessarily need to act. And it is so normal for me to miss opportunities for buying tickets to concerts or parties.

It is an annoying habit because I always deceive myself thinking things will still be alright even if I postpone them; at first this makes me feel comfortable, but at the same time I worry about it and I think it should be a better idea just to work at the moment. If the amount of comfort is greater than the concern, I persuade myself into procrastinate. In the other case I try to wait as little as possible.

However, I have to do that anyway so I always end up with doing it while I should be doing something else. It is a huge sign of laziness.

An unpleasant aspect of procrastination is the decrease in quality of the work that must be delivered: doing something at the last minute can compromise the excellence, forcing you to skip some tasks that could step up your game.

I think it is important to gain some knowledge on how to defeat this habit because as you further your education I will no longer be able to leave things to the last minute. When works get bigger they require more planning and if you have not learned the skills to plan before, the result will not be successful.

Good things DO NOT come to those who wait, So don’t leave it to fate, your life deserves to be great, Be the best version of you, before it’s too late.

This quote inspired me because I feel the author really got to the point and said what we need to hear.

In my view, people of my age need to receive some piece of advice about the importance of working hard and not giving up when they face their first big obstacles. Many children can be demoralized when they have to challenge issues which may seem impossible to get over.

Created By
Leonardo De Clara


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

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.