You should have seen the faces when our family sat down to watch The Merchant of Venice the other day.
‘Not Shaakespeare!’
‘He’s all Thees and Thous and boys in tights.’
‘Who’re actually girls.’
‘And long boring speeches.’
‘Which have nothing to do with now.’

Oh really? After ten minutes we were hooked.

Like any great tale, it’s ageless – relevant to any century and stage of life. Once you’ve taken a deep breath and swallowed the Thees and Thous, you dive into a story of bullying, revenge and a bitter kind of victory.

Never mind 16th century Venice, it happens every day in schools and offices, on housing estates, across countries and between them.

Shylock the Jew is the outcast, hated for his difference. He’s the boy with funny teeth, the girl with yucky packed lunches, the man from a different country, the woman with HIV.

He’s David Walliams’ Mr Stink; Enid Blyton’s dirty gyspies, and most of Roald Dahl heroes, from James to Charlie to Matilda with a dash of Enormous Crocodile.

While centuries have passed and empires come and gone, while cities have grown and computers shrunk, we humans don’t seem to have changed much at all. Our fears, hopes, kindnesses and jealousies are pretty much the same as those of Shakespeare’s time. They just don’t wear tights.

‘I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,  heal’d by the same means, warm’d and cool’d by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.’
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

‘You are a stupid little girl,’ Mrs Winter said.
‘I am not a stupid little girl!’ I cried. ‘I am a very nice little girl.’
‘Go and stand in the corner,’ Mrs Winter said.
The I got cross, and I saw red, and I put the Magic Finger on Mrs Winter …
The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl