William Shakespeare is undoubtedly one of the greatest writers of all time, but can students of the 21st century really improve their knowledge of English by reading his works? The answer, although not as absolute as one might think, is...yes it can!
The literary works of William Shakespeare for many people are a challenging read at best. Many students dislike reading Shakespeare because of the opposition it presents to fully understand his style of writing. Undeniably, his choice and use of words are not entirely familiar and his transposing the usage of nouns as verbs in his prose makes it difficult to grasp, especially to the modern day reader. Yet, that doesn't mean that Shakespeare's writings are without merit and can't benefit its readers in a number of ways.
Case in point is when he intentionally transposes his nouns for verbs. Reading Shakespeare, because of its complexity, causes the reader to stimulate his brain which inadvertently causes a great deal of brain activity as one struggles to understand the meaning behind his words. His literary works also facilitates the reader to enhance his own vocabulary because Shakespeare tends to use many words that are not common to our everyday vocabulary. By increasing your own vocabulary, the reader can benefit when reading other difficult prose because many of the words Shakespeare uses can be found in other literary works. Enhancing one's own vocabulary and incorporating them into our every day language has also been known to improve one's intelligence.
Additionally, because of the complexity and difficulty in comprehending Shakespeare's literary works, a great deal of them are often read aloud. Many of Shakespeare's works include the utilization of certain rhythms. The iambic pentameter is one such rhythm, that when spoken aloud for a reading or during a performance of Shakespeare, enables the reader to improve upon their speaking ability by perfecting memorization, articulation, and delivery of the written word.
Once you get through the arduous task of reading one of Shakespeare's works, and really come to understand what his writings are all about, it can also improve your comprehension skills for anything else you read that has a bit of complexity to it. It also has been known to encourage students to explore other literary works outside their typical reading 'comfort zones.'
So...yes, Shakespeare can improve your knowledge of English, but it certainly it won't happen overnight. Admittedly, reading Shakespeare takes patience and willingness on the reader's part to go outside their 'typical range' of modern day literature; but once accomplished, it can bring great benefits for those eager to try.