I am wondering if you could translate a book from Shakespeare to simple modern English and have it published somehow. As far as I know, you can translate non-English books and have them published, but I was wondering if it was any different for books written in old English.

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There's no legal barrier to this, all such works would be out of copyright (assuming your version isn't too reliant on a previous modernization still under copyright). And, in fact, a quick Google search shows numerous hits for "Shakespeare in easy English." However, the questions for a publisher or a reader would be "Why this writer? Why this version?" Typically modernizations are either academic editions by learned scholars, or popular editions by well-known writers. If you aren't either one of these, you're unlikely to draw much interest.

Also, Shakespeare is NOT Old English. It's relatively modern English, and still perfectly readable for most people, so there's not the same demand for a translation as for something like Beowulf which actually is in Old English.

Your best bet is probably to write a new book inspired by the old one. At least that way you have a compelling reason that the author needs to be you.


You could always transliterate it - translation is from one language to another - though you run the risk of ending up with something that is not worth reading.

Brilliant writing reaches through time and endures.

When I read a fine translation of a classic work that was written in another language, I know that it would be still better if I could only read it in the original French, Russian, Greek etc. Telling someone that they should read Hamlet in the original English when they think they just read it in English would be a bit odd.

If you wish to do so, no one will stop you. The Bard’s works are public domain, but they are also perfect as they are. Elizabethan English is an easy version so close to what we use today that it strikes me as odd to want to translate it into the language in which it was written.

I once translated to be or not to be into Latin. Esse, aut non esse - the rest was more intriguing.

What it sounds like to me - please tell me I am wrong - is that you want to dumb down Shakespeare’s works so that people who won’t read him read your version. That is why Cliff Notes exist - to tell people who won’t read a piece what they missed out on.

If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Shakespeare is not broken.

People have based their works on his plays and been quite successful West Side Story is one example.

What would you do with the soliloquy I mentioned? Would it end up being “I am sad and don’t know if life is worth living, but scared to try anything either rash or brave?”

People read Shakespeare for this beauty and genius of his verse.

Many of the words and phrases we use today, he coined.

If you were to attempt such an endeavour, it must be done with love and a complete knowledge and understanding of the works in question. People devote their lives to the study of his works and teach them as they are - not seeking to modernize what they love so much.

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