You can see all of Shakespeare's works online here. The first work that you can click on happens to be his comedy, All's Well That Ends Well. That title sounds like a familiar modern colloquialism, doesn't it? Here's the first substantial line in scene one from that Shakesperean play:
I don't see "thou" or "thee" in that passage. It looks like "you," "you," and "you." Here is the first line from Act I, Scene II, of The Comedy of Errors:
Therefore give out you are of Epidamnum,
Lest that your goods too soon be confiscate.
This very day a Syracusian merchant
Is apprehended for arrival here;
And not being able to buy out his life
According to the statute of the town,
Dies ere the weary sun set in the west.
There is your money that I had to keep.
Again, we see "you," "your," and "your." Where is the "thou" and the "thy" and the "thee"? I see a "give," a "buy," and a "set," instead of a "givest," "buyest," and "settest." Well. I move to the history category and click on The Life of King Henry the Fifth and paste for you a lengthy line by the Canterbuy in Act I, Scene I:
I read "you," "you," "you," and "you." No thou or thee. Now tragedy and Romeo and Juliet. Here's some text from Act I, Scene I:
No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I bite my thumb, sir.
Do you quarrel, sir?
Quarrel sir! no, sir.
If you do, sir, I am for you: I serve as good a man as you.
Again, I see a "you," "you," "you," "you," and "you." For instance, in the line by Gregory, I don't read, "Dost thou quarrel, sir?" Not there.
This is enough of a sample size for me to see that Elizabethans didn't talk and then Shakespeare most often did not write like the English we read in the King James Version. And the works that I chose were written before the King James Version was written. They are more ancient English than the King James.You will read that what you are reading in the King James is Elizabethan English. Someone wrote: "The King James Version was produced in the Elizabethan period of Early Modern English, and so it uses forms of the verbs and pronouns that were characteristic of that period." When you read Shakespeare, you are reading Elizabethan English and you do not read the same language as the King James Version. So the above quote is not true.
This didn't take deep research and study. We can know this kind of information very easily. We have no reason to be ignorant about it. The King James translators didn't write words like "dost" and "thy" and "thou" and "taketh" because that is how people spoke at that time. For the most part, they didn't. So what is the King James Version style all about? What were the King James translators trying to do? I believe that Steven Houck gets it right and says it as well as I would want to say it when he writes these four paragraphs:
They were so concerned about it that they even took over the very phraseology of the Hebrew and Greek. We find in our Bibles, all kinds of Hebrew expressions and concepts that are not natural to the English way of speaking. In fact, it can even be said that the English of the King James Version is not the English of the 17th century, nor of any century. It is an English that is unique, for it is Biblical English-an English formed by the Hebrew and Greek of the Bible. It is Biblical English because the translators were more interested in being faithful to the originals than in making their translation in the street language of the day, as do translators today.
That they sought an accurate translation is further indicated by the fact that they italicized every word that did not have a corresponding word in the original. How many modern Bible versions do that? Moreover, to insure the fact that the reader understands the meaning of certain original words, they added 4,223 marginal notes that gave the literal meaning of the original words, and 2,738 notes with alternate translations. The result is that in the King James Version we have an accurate translation that puts the others to shame.
A Majestic Translation
In the third place we must note the fact that the translators gave the King James Version a majestic quality that raises it high above all other translations. They recognized God to be GOD-a God of glory and majesty. Therefore, they were careful to translate His Word in such a way that it would be filled with His majesty. That is another reason why the English of the King James Version is not the English of the 17th century. The translators deliberately chose words and phases that were no longer used in general conversation even in their day in order that they might set this book apart from all others. All you have to do is compare the language of the dedication to King James in the front of your Bible with the Bible itself and you will see the difference immediately.
Many tell us that the King James Version is no longer useful because its language has become obsolete, but what they do not realize is that its language is not a type of English that was ever spoken anywhere. Oh, it was such that the people could understand it, but it was, nevertheless, a particular language deliberately chosen to make the King James Version a version that reflects the reverence and respect which is due unto its Divine Author. In that respect, they succeeded too, for there is no version that even comes close to the beauty and majesty of the King James Version.
Our culture doesn't think like this today. I believe it is a problem when we start talking about translations that we are so obsessed with the ease for men, rather than translating the Bible in a respectful, elevating fashion out of reverence for God. We don't have that type of formal language today. Anyone interested in what I'm talking about should read John McWhorter's Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music. At the end of the first chapter McWhorter writes:
A society that cherishes the spoken over the written, whatever it gains from the warm viscerality of unadorned talk, is one that marginalizes extended, reflective argument. Spoken language, as I will show in the first chapter, is best suited to harboring easily processible chunks of information, broad lines, and emotion. To the extent that our public discourse leans ever more toward this pole, the implications for the prospect of an informed citizenry are dire. The person who only processes information beyond their immediate purview in nuggets is not educated in any meaningful sense. On the contrary, this person is indistinguishable in mental sophistication from the semiliterate Third World villager who derives all of their information about the world beyond via conversation and gossip. And a culture that marginalizes the didactic potential of written-style language in favor of the personal electricity of spoken language is one whose media becomes ever more a circus of personalities rather than a purveyor of information and guide to analysis.
As I write this, I already hear the Tyndale quote being thrown at us, that we need a Bible that even the plowboy can understand. Plowboys didn't know Latin, the language of scholarship. Tyndale wasn't saying that the Bible should be translated into plowboy rhetoric or tongue. No way. He was saying that the English needed a Bible in their own language---English.
I write this post because of major disinformation on a widespread level about the nature of the King James English. It is not Elizabethan English. When you hear that, understand that it isn't true. It was written in a kind of English especially for the Bible itself that would give us the best possible representation of Holy Scripture in the English language.