Tricky: isn't he?
Speaking Shakespeare with understanding and warmth and (crucially) modernity is incredibly easy:
if only you know how.
Firstly, don't approach Shakespeare as you would a modern English text.
You will only be disappointed that you don't understand more of it.
Approach a Shakespeare text as if it is written in a different language:
this way, you will focus more on the 90% you recognise
rather than the 10% that you don't.
Secondly, look at how many of the words you know.
It will be most of them.
What often gets confusing is the order that Shakespeare uses them in.
Yes, sometimes you will have to refer to the glossary:
but this is often true when reading any new author.
If you pull a tricky phrase apart,
there is a good chance that you can rearrange the words
to make sense to you.
Another good trick is to 'translate' a sentence into modern English
and use this in your rehearsals as a 'gateway'.
Speak the sentence in your translation to understand the emotion:
then, once you have engaged with emphases and cadence,
speak the original with that feeling.
Is he over-revered?
Irrelevant, out of touch, elitist?
On a purely practical level, I've lost count of the amount of performers, teachers and practitioners who have lost work
due to their inability to understand Shakespeare.
Classical speeches are often a requisite of Drama School entry,
and the popularity of Shakespeare as an enduring entertainment form shows no signs of abating.
In literary terms,
Shakespeare simply offers more than anyone else in terms of
linguistic beauty and the ability to create haunting images of humanity.
In theatrical terms,
his universal themes and exquisitely wrought characters
ensure that new and vibrant adaptations
will always be at the forefront of fresh, new dramatic interpretation.
By all means avoid him if you must:
but let it not be through nervousness or anxiety.