NOTHING really changes, does it?

News events this week make the point with chilling clarity.

A humanitarian crisis in Europe and a 500-year-old manuscript by William Shakespeare might not, on the face of it, appear to have much in common.

But they do.

The shocking and heart-rending scenes in Europe of desperate Syrian refugees haunt us.

Day after day we see distressing images of children, old people, disabled people, mothers and fathers. They are exhausted, they are ground down.

They are human beings pushed to the limit. Yet their spirit keeps them alive, pushing for survival.

They have risked their lives in flimsy boats to reach European shores. They have left murder, destruction and horror behind in their homeland.

All they want is compassion and safety.

They are being offered hope and sanctuary in Germany. But bureaucracy stands in their way. Never has red-tape been so cruel and inhumane.

Macedonia pushes Syrian refugees back into Greece this week. The cry goes up: why has Europe closed its borders?

We can only look on helplessly as we wait for our governments to act, to do something that transcends rules, regulations and points of law.

We wait for our leaders to do something human, something compassionate.

This week it was announced that the only surviving manuscript in Shakespeare’s own hand is to be digitised and made available online.

The fragment, a scene from a play, portrays Henry VIII’s adviser Thomas More (portrayed recently in the BBC’s Wolf Hall) addressing anti-immigration rioters in London.

Demonstrating once again Shakespeare’s timeless genius, the scene was written in 1600 at a time when there was great anxiety about the number of French Protestants, or Huguenots, who were descending on London in search of asylum.

Sound familiar?

The British Library holds the scene from the play, which was not written by Shakespeare - he was brought in as a sort of script doctor to perk up the script.

The library’s curator told the media this week: “It is a really stirring piece of rhetoric. At its heart it is really about empathy. More is calling on the crowds to empathise with the immigrants or strangers as they are called in the text. He is asking them to imagine what it would be like if they went to Europe, if they went to Spain or Portugal, they would then be strangers. He is pleading with them against what he calls their ‘mountainous inhumanity’.”

With the ‘mountainous inhumanity’ currently being played out on European soil and the question of Britain’s membership of the European Union high in our minds right now, it seems timely that Shakespeare’s words are being made widely available.

They could make for sobering reading.