Even to the most gifted speaker, reading Shakespeare out loud can pose the occasional stumbling block. Unusual turns of phrase and unfamiliar terms have given rise to two schools of thought when it comes to Shakespeare’s choice of words: Those who love it as it is and those who would translate it to modern English.
The pro-update camp claims that the language of Shakespeare's plays is full of difficulties, that it is 400 years removed from modern readers. They claim that archaic words and figurative language pose difficulties to readers today.
Elizabethan English does differ from Modern English, but the principles are generally the same, and experts say that knowing a few rules and terms will overcome most difficulties. For thousands who enjoy renaissance faires every year, this poses no obstacle, but a pleasant eccentricity.
Without a doubt, Shakespeare’s command of language was outstanding. He was a highly imaginative poet who wrote skillfully for staged performance. His vocabulary, as culled from his works, numbers upward of 17,000 words, which is over four times that of an average modern person. An impressive feat considering there were no dictionaries in his day.
The flow of the verse, the turns of phrase and word-play are what the traditionalists claim makes the plays more enjoyable. Rather than being bothered by words with unexpected and multiple meanings or special connotations, they revel in them. Figurative language unfamiliar words are to them merely signs of being creatively literate. To disturb the meter and double meanings of Shakespeare’s work with an update seems to diminish the art of his writing.
Post your opinion to the translation discussion board.