His works have both bored innumerable schoolchildren and inspired writers throughout the world. But have the plays and sonnets gone past their sell-by date?
According to the Royal Shakespeare Company, yes they have. And to solve this problem, the RSC are employed modern writers to rewrite Shakespeare's classics. They will have the same basic plot line, but other elements will be changed to fit with a modern audience.
An RSC spokesperson announced "Shakespeare's classic plays just don't captivate the modern world. The language is branded 'unreadable', the settings are called 'boring', the names are 'ridiculous' and the plots just don't compare to the complexity of modern day TV shows. Therefore, updating the plays is necessary, to capture the young audiences of today."
One of the classics to get the modernisation treatment is A Midsummer Night's Dream, which is now a story of two pairs of lovers and the brutal murder which occurs when one is killed. Suspicion falls on one of them, but is this murder case really as simple as it seems? Or are there supernatural forces at work?
Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is now a tale of a drug addict - can the addict overcome his addiction by the twelfth night of living without drugs? Or will he commit suicide?
Some people claim that Shakespeare's best work is Romeo & Juliet - a romance that ends in a tragedy. But is there really a place in the 21st Century for a love story between two people from two rival families? According to the RSC, this is the play that is seen as "the most ludicrous of the lot".
So Romeo & Juliet is headed for a major retelling. The most notable difference is the name has changed to Romeo & Julian. The story is now centred around a gay couple "which is perfectly up-to-date and relevant to a modern audience". The story takes place between two rival street gangs, not long-feuding families as the classic was.
But it's not just the basic premise of the play that has been changed - classic dialogue has been replaced. One Shakespearian quote many know is:
But this classic line is being replaced, now with an added reply from Romeo. It goes:
"Over here, you plonker!"
The change has been called "shocking", "disastrous" and "a blow to Shakespearian legend".
The move to update the plays has been backed by English teachers in many schools. One Mr Hugh Oatcake says "This is a very good idea. It will keep kids interested in Shakespeare for years to come, and will keep the Shakespeare legend alive."
The modern Shakespeare books will be available to buy soon. And look out for these titles in the "New Shakespeare" range:
- Big MacBeth
- Much Ado About My New Nokia
- The Merchant of Venetian Blinds
- The Killing of the Shrew
- All's Well...So Long As It Ends Soon