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What is Shakespearen English to you?


O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!

It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night   

Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear-

Beauty too rich for use , for earth too dear!

So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows 

As yonder lady o'er her fellows shows 

The measure done , I'll watch her place of stand 

And, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand

Did my heart love till now? Foreswear it , sight!

For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night .

( Do native speakers of English read Shakespeare's poetries and plays without difficulties ,or does it also get confusing sometimes as you haven't learned the particular vocabulary he used? )

(And how would you translate it into your language if you're non-native but an advanced learner of English balancing both its meanings and its rhymes  ?  /  Do you think it's a good idea to 'translate' it into plain English so that everyone could understand it ?)

Aug 26, 2016 2:57 PM
Comments · 4

Hi, English native speaker here. Lots of natives find Shakespeare confusing, especially when you're in school. There are copies of his plays with footnotes saying what certain words or expressions mean because we don't use them today. However, anyone can at least get the gist of what is being said - in the passage above, the character (Romeo?) is saying Juliet is beautiful. In longer passages like this one, the rhyming couplets at the end offer a summary.

That said, I think once you get into reading it, you get used to the style, and you can understand what is going on unless you don't understand a key word/phrase because it's not used anymore. Shakespeare did come up with loads of words and expressions we use today, though, so he really did help expand the English language. Some examples are: eyeball, good riddance, dawn, truth will out, gossip, gallantry... the list is massive. There's a full list here:


August 26, 2016

In the United States, in many places it's customary to read Shakespeare's plays in high school. It's hard work. 

Native speakers find the language very difficult.

It was hard when I was in high school in the 1960s. It is harder today, because the language of Shakespeare is about the same as that of the "King James version" of the Bible, and when I was in high school people customarily read that version and thus got practice in year-1611 English,  whereas nowadays many churches use more modern translations. Yes, there are now versions of Shakespeare that have been "translated" into modern English.

Of course, Shakespeare is meant to be seen on the stage, not read, and good actors do a very good job of clarifying the meaning with their actions and gestures. 

August 27, 2016

Thanks a lot G.K. !!!!!!!  So native speakers also need notes for a better understanding of it !  It's like Classic Chinese which is in the education curriculum ,that we students find to be rather confusing. some 'weird' words ,and some different grammar    Actually it was two years ago that I first tried to read Shakespeare's works.Not  being at a high language level, I did struggle a lot. I was surprisingly patient enough to read the tragedy of R&J ,though I had to look up hundreds of words in the dictionary hahaha.   But yes,indeed! It begins to make sense once you've got used to his language ,and in fact it is quite compelling and engaging !    (Girls won't be able to resist  the way he made Romeo talk .haha:P)

Is Shakespeare said to be the person with the largest vocabulary? I guess I've heard that statement somewhere.

Thank you for sharing that website with me :D

August 26, 2016

The works of Shakespeare are a joy! Initially, the pacing of dialogue can be a little intimidating however the substance and content of his words are so fulfilling"

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember'd;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

...Edward V

August 27, 2016
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), English, French
Learning Language
English, French