As a some what classically trained actor (two years of an academic theatre school) I have always had a thing for Shakespeare. I love his work and have never had the fear that so many people seem to have for the language. Sure some of the allusions and idioms are obscure or their meanings are only relevant to Elizabethan scholars, but a good actor lets the emotion of the words in context convey what is needed for the audience to comprehend the meaning of the words.
Underneath the glamour and the trappings that accompany most productions there are universal truths that speak to all of us. Remember Shakespeare was a popular writer who depended on pleasing his audiences for making a living. An audience who if anything were even less educated then today's, made up of primarily illiterates who would need the stimuli of strong emotion to provide enjoyment. His plays are sexual, violent, full of bawdy humour and plots were dictated by the strong moral code of the time. The tragedies conformed to the tight rule of a hero whose tragic flaw brings about his downfall, the histories to extolling the virtues of the current head under the crown, and the romantic comedies all worked out right in the end.
What has always elevated Shakespeare head and shoulders above the rest was his ability to raise his content above the limitations of the style. Unlike today's sit-com writers who work within a similar format and let stereotypes and manipulation stand in for genuine characters and emotion, his ear for poetry and truth combined to entertain and enlighten the masses whilst never stooping to a lowest common denominator. Royal to peasant were equally comfortable with his work.
Our tendency to view Shakespeare's plays as museum pieces instead of living theatre is the thing that does them the most disservice. We suffered through a long period of staid costume dramas masquerading as performance with only a few notable exceptions. Not until Kenneth Branagh first began producing plays and filming did new life get blown back into Shakespeare for the first time since Peter Brooks interpretations in the early seventies. Aside from Mr. Branagh own productions we have seen a spurt of attempts at Shakespeare, some good, some bad, but at least people were attempting to use film and his plays for more then faithful reproductions of stage shows.