Shakespear's LanguageWilliam Shakespear should use simpler language so that it makes it easier to understand his text. Do you think his writing is of high level or it is at that level for a...

Shakespear's Language

William Shakespear should use simpler language so that it makes it easier to understand his text. Do you think his writing is of high level or it is at that level for a reason?? Whats your view.

Asked on by ayy-dee

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lmetcalf's profile pic

lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I completely agree with Post #9. Shakespeare wrote over 400 years ago which is a potential challenge to the current reader, but if you read it carefully, you will surprised by how your mind and ear become accustomed to the language and you can get his meaning rather quickly. You will be surprised by just how much understanding the context of a conversation helps with gathering the meaning of the conversation. After Act 1 of any of the plays, it gets easier. Keep reading!

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It is appalling that any teachers would feel that Shakespeare's marvelously written works should be revised to Modern simplistic English!  If this is done, then why not rewrite the Constitution of the United States, and any other works written in older forms of English?

Things are being dumbed down enough, are they not?  As the previous poster has so cogently remarked, the beauty of the prose would be destroyed if the Bard's plays were "revised."  Shakespeare wrote in the language of his own time that even the groundlings understood, so how difficult could it have been?  If Americans were not so obtuse about learning foreign languages as children, they would better comprehend older forms of English which resemble the ancestral French and Saxon languages. [I once had a German foreign exchange student who said that Chaucer was easy for her to read as it resembled older German.] To read Shakespeare in its original form is imperative in order to appreciate the iambic pentameter, the figurative language, the personalities of the characters, the depth of thought, the absolute beauty of the language. 

Besides, there are parallel texts provided for students so that they can refer to the modern meanings of words.  Here at enotes the etexts of the plays contain on one side the original and on the other the Modern English version.  Certainly, for those for whom English is a second or third language, this modern text is helpful.  But, please let us not eradicate the history of the English language that is preserved in the magnificent writings of such greats as Chaucer and Shakespeare just for those not proficient in English.

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Shakespeare wrote using what was "normal" for people of his time. To change his words, one would lose many the beauty of the language. If you are struggling with the language, use a modern text next to the original. Eventually, you will come to understand what he was saying.

wannam's profile pic

wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

While we may find Shakespeare's language difficult today, it would not have been when he wrote it. Shakespeare wrote for the simple man rather than the elite. He spoke in the common vernacular of the day. The English language has changed and evolved since the time of Shakespeare and his contemporary Elizabethans. While we have difficulty deciphering his meanings and words, those during his time period would have found his words easy and simple.
pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I agree with you that it would be better if Shakespeare were in modern English.  There are places where you can find "translations."  As previous people have said, though, it's not as if he was trying to be difficult, it's just that he was writing 400 years ago and so of course people spoke differently.

If you're having trouble, look for a translation into modern English.

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I don't think so.  Shakespeare wrote a long time ago, and culturally we cannot be expected to understand all of the nuances as a modern audience.  However, the language was written in iambic pentameter to have a better flow, and is flowery to be more poetic and meaningful.

bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Try thinking of Shakespeare in this way: He wrote in the language that was used during the time he lived (16th and 17th centuries). Now, consider much of today's 21st century slang and vernacular, such as language used by teens, gangs, hip hop or even computerese. Would people of the 17th century be able to follow a conversation that is peppered with such modern slang? Probably not. The biggest difference is that Shakespeare's words are beautifully written even if they seem archaic by today's standards. Keep plugging away, and just remember that Shakespeare's words were modern for his time, aiming for an audience of contemporaries that really isn't so different from the way writers and musicians take aim at specific audiences today.

rrteacher's profile pic

rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Shakespeare wrote for his contemporaries, and many of the expressions that go over our heads would have made perfect sense to them. Shakespeare can be somewhat daunting for a twenty-first century reader, but his stories are so good that they are worth sifting through the difficult language. It is a little ironic, because there were many during Shakespeare's time that considered his works, and theater in general, to be a bit lowbrow. That is very much not the case to day.

vangoghfan's profile pic

vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I understand how you feel, but I hope you will give Shakespeare a chance.  I personally believe (and was just saying this to someone yesterday) that he had more of a grasp of the English language, and knew better how to use it, than anyone else who has ever written English.  His vocabulary was unusually large, but what makes him such a great writer is not the size of his vocabulary but how he was able to employ so effectively all the words he knew.  I promise you that if you give him a chance and try to learn what he can do with words, you will never regret it.

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