Why it’s blasphemous to alter Shakespeare’s words for a modern audience

Antoni Cimolino in The New Republic:

Willy_shakespeare In “Will Shakespeare's Come and Gone,” John McWhorter recommends that Shakespeare be rewritten for the sake of clarity. He asks, “At what point do we concede that substantial comprehension across the centuries has become too much of a challenge to expect of anyone but specialists?”

Or as Shakespeare more simply put it when one of his characters had trouble understanding a speaker, “Those that understood him smil'd at one another and shook their heads; but for mine own part, it was Greek to me.” As this example shows, Shakespeare can be perfectly clear–in part because he so largely shaped the language we speak today. Countless expressions that he coined have become our “household words.”

There are indeed archaisms in Shakespeare's lexicon (we no longer say “mine own part”), but most of the difficulty we face in comprehending his dialogue has less to do with the passage of time than with the fact that these plays are not exercises in conversational English but dense, complex, and profoundly non-naturalistic dramatic poems.

Imagery, allusion, metaphor, and ambiguity are the poet's stock-in-trade, so it shouldn't surprise us to find that Shakespeare often seems to say more than one thing at a time. Our challenge today is not that we don't receive meaning from his words, but that we receive several meanings, some of them intentionally contradictory.

More here.