Home > Multimedia Essays > Star Trek VI: General Chang as Shakespeare

Star Trek VI: General Chang as Shakespeare

We all know that the works of Shakespeare are one of the most quoted in the field of literature. But Shakespeare proves himself to be an icon that transcends not only the different areas of literature, but almost any type of media. We could see Shakespeare in all types of print: comics, children’s books, newspaper and magazine ads. The icon is also present on radio, television and even the Internet! And because of this worldwide popularity, the word “Shakespeare”,  became a household name.

The big screen, for one, is only a mere peon of the Shaksepeare-ean influence that continues to propagate his work by means of referencing and direct adaptations.

Our grandparents, parents, and us, probably, are witnesses of these Shakespeare films that made it to the ‘must watch’ for several years. We’ve seen dozens of Romeo and Juliets, Hamlets and Macbeths – all of which made us think — “Why another Shakespeare?” But the questions were easily overshadowed by the contentment that yes, you did enjoyed “Another Shakespeare”. And that is what’s important.

“Something has been lost in the literalness and completeness of the translation, that a certain amount of irreverence, and I don’t mean rude irreverence, just lack of inhibition, is really helpful. That anything you adapt, whether it is Shakespeare’s Henry V for the screen or Philip Roth or Dostoyevski, somehow you have to be loose enough to fool around, while at the same time, mysteriously managing to capture the essential alchemy of the original. And if you do that, sooner or later, they’ll forgive you for the literal things that you fail to deliver on.”

– Nicholas Meyer (2004)

Director, Star Trek VI

And in this essay, we will be tackling the incorporation of this branding superpower to a classic and hit movie series — The Shakespeare in Star Trek VI: General Chang as Shakespeare.


1st on our list is a “Merchant of Venice” line:

We see here General Chang looking and planning evil against the Enterprise. And in his seat, he quoted a line from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice Act III Scene I:

General Chang:

“Tickle us, do we not laugh

prick us, do we not bleed

and wrong us, shall we not revenge?”



“If you prick us, do we not bleed?

if you tickle us, do we not laugh?

if you poison us, do we not die?

and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”

Even if the lines were jumbled, the reference here is pretty exact.

General Chang daydreams of pursuing his plans to sabotage the peace negotiations between The Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets. He is taunting the Enterprise by reciting Shakespeare to himself.

Brilliant, I know.


Next in line is a quote coming from “The Tempest”:

This certain scene is only moments away before our main man, General Chang, fires torpedoes to the Enterprise.

And in the process, he chants (The Tempest Act IV Scene I):

General Chang:

“Our revels now are ended, Kirk”



“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air”

General Chang orders his crews to prepare an attack to the vulnerable spaceship in front of them. Being invisible in space is of course a big advantage, and Gen. Chang is using that to inflict considerable damage to the Enterprise.

And what do great people — well Klingons, in this case, have in common?

They quote Shakespeare out of sheer ecstasy.


Star Trek VI lacks the cheesiness of a very good love story, so we’ll pass on the “Romeo and Juliet” for now and head to “Julius Caesar”, which is still portrayed by General Chang as Shakespeare:

After successfully blasting off the Enterprise’s Bar and Dining area, General Chang celebrates by spinning merrily in his boss chair and shouting a quote from Julius Caesar Act III Scene I:

General Chang:

“Cry ‘havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war”



“Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth”

General Chang (The Warbird) – 1

Kirk (The Enterprise) – 0

Cheers! The Klingon Shakespeare scored one against the story’s protagonists.

And in what way could General Chang celebrate it?

You guessed it, by quoting Shakespeare of course!


Still referencing “Julius Caesar”:

General Chang, showing off his lead and superiority to his fellow Klingons and to Kirk’s team, chants (Julius Caesar Act III Scene I):

General Chang:

“I am as constant as the Northern Star”



“I could be well moved, if I were as you:
If I could pray to move, prayers would move me:
But I am constant as the northern star”

This is the end of General Chang playing invincible (while being invisible) with Kirk and his team — the Enterprise. For all brilliant plans have their flaws, Gen. Chang’s problem literally came out off his exhaust. A modified torpedo was made inside the Enterprise that could detect and home in to nearby exhaust emissions. All they need to do is press the button labeled “Fire” and the torpedo went straight to the Warbird, Gen. Chang’s invisible spaceship.


This leads us to “Hamlet” and his famous soliloquy:

Stunned by the thought of his downfall, General Chang could only do so much — recite the most famous Shakespeare line on Earth, or maybe in the Universe (Hamlet Act III Scene I):

General Chang:

“To be,


not to be”



“To be,


not to be”

Every great villain deserves to be greatly killed. And Star Trek VI didn’t turn us down — the projectile, the blast, the flames, and the debris. What more can we ask for?

But what’s more important is, the late General Chang perfected “The Shakespeare” by reciting Hamlet before he was eaten by a humongous ball of an explosion. Maybe, just maybe, he could have the chance of having a glimpse of “The Brand” in the afterlife.


*General Chang, played by no other than Christopher Plummer, is an accomplished Shakespearean actor. He played Macbeth in a 1988 Broadway production of the play.


For the compilation of these clips, refer to this video.

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”

– William Shakespeare


So you think you know your Star Trek?

Not unless you know your Shakespeare.

“You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.”

– Gorkon


Tired of all these nerdy stuff? Here’s another clip to let you unwind and return to the romantic world you always wanted — packed with a lengthy lift-and-deliver lines from Sense and Sensibility (Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116):


Jizzer Lawrence Co

2009 – 11667

BA Psychology

College of Social Arts and Sciences

University of the Philippines Diliman


Disclaimer: All of the videos and pictures that are used in this essay do not belong to me. Credits go to their respective owners and original uploaders.

Edited by yours truly for this 198 essay.


Works Cited

“Full text / script of the play Merchant of Venice Act 3 by William Shakespeare.” WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2011. <http://www.william-shakespeare.info/act3-script-text-merchant-of-venice.htm&gt;

“Full text / script of the play The Tempest Act IV by William Shakespeare” WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2011.<http://www.william-shakespeare.info/act4-script-text-the-tempest.htm&gt;

“Full text / script of the play Julius Caesar Act III by William Shakespeare” WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2011.<http://www.william-shakespeare.info/act3-script-text-julius-caesar.htm&gt;

“William Shakespeare Sonnet 116 Let me not to the marriage of true minds” WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2011.<http://www.william-shakespeare.info/william-shakespeare-sonnet-116.htm&gt;

“Shakespeare Autograph” z99 <http://www.z99.com/files/u21/autograph.jpg&gt;

“The Klington Hamlet” gawkerassets <http://cache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/8/2008/10/thumb160x_TheKlingonHamlet.jpg&gt;

“Groucho Reviews: Interview: Nicholas Meyer—Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: Special Edition—02/01/04.” Groucho Reviews: Film/DVD reviews, interviews and features.. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2011. <http://www.grouchoreviews.com/interviews/7&gt;.

” YouTube – Star Trek VI: Shakespeare Quotes .” YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. . N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQddgc1h_2I&gt;.

“Shakespeare & Star Trek….Connected Through Space Time | Shakespeare Blog from NoSweatShakespeare.” Shakespeare Resources: Modern English Shakespeare Translations. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2011. <http://www.nosweatshakespeare.com/blog/random-stuff/shakespeare-and-star-trek/&gt;.

Categories: Multimedia Essays
  1. theclassicalfan
    January 17, 2011 at 8:25 am

    For a sort-of Trekkie, I found this piece very fascinating. Even though the lines have been used in a much different context than the original, they seem very apt.

    As I have been unable to watch episodes of previous incarnations of the series as much as I would have wanted to, this piece has given me the impetus to watch them again, this time paying more attention to the character of the Klingon Chang. 😛

    By the way, are there other characters within the Star Trek-verse who “loved” Shakespeare as much as Chang did?

    • January 17, 2011 at 1:48 pm

      First, thanks for reading my post Theclassicalfan. 🙂

      I tried my best to steer this essay away from the traditional information-feeding style. And it felt good that you found this one fascinating.

      “Whether it’s pretentious or not, I think it depends on how it’s used. […] I don’t quite agree with using too much of that sort of thing, but once you get Plummer, suddenly it’s working.” – Nicholas Meyer on Christopher Plummer as Chang.

      These characters also love Shakespeare:
      Captain James Kirk, most of the time, always portrays Macbeth, Hamlet, Ferdinand, and Petruchio.
      Gorkon, on the other hand, discusses Shakespeare tons of times, but doesn’t quote him directly.

      But, another character who loves Shakespeare as much as Chang does?
      None. 😀

  2. November 7, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Star Trek and Shakespeare have always been joined at the hip. From the episode “The conscience of the King” which centers around a company of shakespearean actors, to captain picards forceful renunciation of Q with a full-throated passage of Hamlet, The Bard is in Star Trek’s DNA.

  1. May 15, 2011 at 4:51 pm
  2. April 24, 2016 at 2:04 pm

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: