Tag Archive: Hamlet

HOMO DEUS by Yuval Noah Harari (Vintage Books, 2017)

Subtitled ‘a brief history of tomorrow’, Harari’s sobering study of where humankind is heading envisages a future in which secular sapiens are increasingly marginalised by the by now unstoppable march of technological innovation.

It is a quirk of human nature that we all like to think of ourselves as individuals. In reading this book you’ll quickly realise that we’re not as unique and irreplaceable as we’d like to imagine.

Although each of us has a unique DNA, the evidence of our online activity proves that our goals, desires and actions follow relatively rigid and wholly predictable patterns . Continue reading

HAMLET directed by Laurence Olivier (1948)
HAMLET directed by Franco Zefferelli (1990)


How about this as a summary of Shakespeare’s most famous play turned movie?:

“This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind.”.

If that seems too reductive, how about this:

“A guy comes home from school to discover that his father’s dead. To top it all off his mother is horsing around with his uncle. Add to that, the ghost of the old man comes back to tell him that it was his uncle who knocked him off so he could run off with the Queen. The guy goes off his nut”.

The first is Laurence Olivier’s voiceover before the main action begins.

The second is from an interview with Mel Gibson included in the extras on the DVD of Zefferelli’s film.

Frankly, neither really cuts the mustard but both are obviously aiming to pitch the story in an accessible fashion. Continue reading


Carlo Goldoni’s Il Servitore di due padroni (The servant of two masters) rewritten by Ken Ponzio (Teatro Bonci, Cesena)

Spot the difference! The classic Harlequin and Roberto Latini as the post-modern version.

Spot the difference! The classic Harlequin and Roberto Latini in the post-modern version.

Prepositions have never been my strong point. The consequence of this is that I failed to appreciate the significance of the fact that this Venetian theatre company’s production was ‘da’ and not ‘di’ Carlo Goldoni. The first means ‘from’ the second means ‘by’.

The distinction is crucial because the only connection Ken Ponzio’s version had to the original play from 1743 is in the character names and token references to the plot.

In the programme notes Ponzio seeks to justify his presumptions act of literary terrorism: “Our way of perceiving comedies and tragedies has changed. Today’s expressive methods are radically different from those of Goldoni since we have experienced two world wars, been to the moon and we’ve read Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Heiner Müller; our way of seeing has fundamentally changed”.

When the curtain  rose my heart sank. The set was a characterless hotel hall with three doors on each side. A pot plant, some chairs, a telephone and a TV (tuned to American shows) are the only props. Continue reading


When it comes to finding words, clarifying meaning, locating synonyms or checking spelling, the word wide web is hard to beat. The probably is that the complete Oxford English Dictionary, widely viewed as the definitive reference, will eventually only exist in an online format and not be printed again.  While the OED is a subscription service, there is no need to spend money to access the English language on the net.

There are very good traditional dictionaries online like Macmillan or Merriam-Webster and for referencing slang or latest buzz words/expressions or for just plain entertainment value the Urban dictionary is highly recommended.

My current  favourite reference source is that provided by Wordnik. Studies of language corpora have become easier in the digital age and makes it easier to show words in a real-world context. This is what Wordnik provides in an intelligent but not in a stuffily academic manner.

A great part of the clean, user-friendly site is the community section which, as I write, includes “971,860,842 example sentences, 6,748,515 unique words, 227,443 comments, 171,845 tags, 121,339 pronunciations, 67,721 favorites and 967,570 words in 31,174 lists created by 74,531 Wordniks”.  These statistics will be out of date by the time you read this as the numbers are added to by registered users.

It is a site that emphasises that language is a living, breathing concept that is forever shifting and evolving.

I am still a relative newcomer to the community but I have recently created a list of  words describing singing voices which I, and other users, can add to whenever a new word takes my fancy.

As the famous Readers Digest feature always said : “It pays to increase your word power”.

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