While Romeo and Juliet may be a timeless and romantic love story, and ideas from Shakespeare are made into modern blockbuster movies almost as often as comic books (Romeo and Juliet and Ten Things I Hate About You were both based off of Shakespeare plays) the language of Shakspeare certainly seems anything BUT timeless when faced with a Shakespeare reading assignment.
Shakespeare’s words are so different from the ones used in current, everyday conversation. (Can you believe Shakespeare never texted LOL to all his friends?) Fret not!
Don’t worry, old Shakespeare; thou meaning (thy meaning?) will be obvious in a few minutes.
Here’s a handy list of some of the more common words used by Shakespeare with the words translated to the words which are more common today:
Because of the oddities and complexities inherent in the language of Shakespeare, sometimes his works seem foreign and incomprehensible. However, many people will be surprised to know that William Shakespeare’s English—the bane of school kids, college students, and playgoers alike—is technically modern English!
That’s right, the same language spoken by William Shakespeare is still in use today, and the language is distinct from Middle English (the language of Chaucer) and Early English (like Beowulf).
This does not mean, however, that Shakespeare’s English (also known as Elizabethan English) uses the exact same words and phrases that we use. In fact, some of his phrases are downright different from anything you’ve ever heard.
Elizabethan English used a different pronoun set than we’re used to.
The first person—I, me, my, mine—remains basically the same.
The second person singular (you, your, yours) is translated to:
Don’t worry too much about what words like “nominative” or “possessive” mean, and forget about those words “ye” and “thee,” which are more formal ways of saying “you.” Now, at least you know that “thou” means “you.”
So the correct way to berate Billy Shakespeare for writing like an old guy is to say, “Shakespeare, thy meaning is unclear!”