I'm reading Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi
I'm slightly freaked to find, reading this thread, that a lot of people read Shakespeare in modern English renditions. Why? It's not hard to get into Elizabethan English once you get the hang of it. Heck, even Chaucer is readable--
A thousand tymes have I herd men telle,
That ther is joye in heven, and peyne in helle;
And I acorde wel that hit is so;
But natheles, yit wot I wel also,
That ther nis noon dwelling in this contree,
That either hath in heven or helle y-be,
Ne may of hit non other weyes witen,
But as he hath herd seyd, or founde hit writen.
You can't understand Chaucer read out loud ("A thoo-zund tee-muss hovvy heyrd men tella..."), but English spelling is so persistently quaint that it isn't hard to get 90% of it in its written form and make an educated guess at the rest.
What makes Shakespeare tough, it seems to me, isn't that his language is archaic, but that it's extravagant:
That spanieled me at heels, to whom I gave
Their wishes, do discandy, melt their sweets
On blossoming Caesar; and this pine is barked
That overtopped them all.
This was just as much a mindfuck in 1600 as in 2000. Making up words left and right is part of Shakespeare's weird power, and you lose that power when you translate him into Basic English.
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