Home > Multimedia Essays > Shakespeare in World of Warcraft

Shakespeare in World of Warcraft

Ty, Angelo Roberto

Ateneo de Manila University

Dr. Judy Ick

World of Warcraft is arguably one of the greatest games of all time, setting the trend for massively multi player online role playing games or MMORPG’s around the world.  It has an astonishing twelve million subscribers worldwide thus making it the most-subscribed game under the said category. Developed by Blizzard Entertainment, it focuses on the Warcraft Universe which many hardcore gamers like myself are familiar with. I admit that I have wasted numerous hours of my human existence in playing this game but I regret nothing and when I got the chance to study Shakespeare more, I got curious and decided to search for Shakespearean references in the game. What I found was surprising because they were so cleverly incorporated in the game that people wouldn’t find these references as absurd or unnecessary. Most of these references came from some of the well known creations of Shakespeare, namely Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet.

Romeo and Juliet

During the game’s second expansion; The Burning Crusade a new raid instance called ‘The Karazhan’ was introduced. It was a 10-man raid that was only made available to level 70 players for better items and more challenges. I myself took part in these so called raids and looking back, I remembered that this dungeon had a so-called ‘opera event’ wherein players are immersed into stories like Little Red Riding Hood, The Wizard of Oz and yes, you guessed right, Romeo and Juliet.

Karazhan Opera Event

Romulo and Julianne

If players are lucky enough, they would get the chance to do two bosses which are called Romulo and Julianne. The man, Romulo is a swordsman while the woman Julianne  heals the former. The two are to be killed in a three-phase fight and when a group does so, they are rewarded with loot such as Romulo’s Poison Vial, an obvious reference to Shakespeare’s tale of star-crossed lovers. It is also quite funny that Julianne’s set of skills comprise of names such as Blinding Passion, Devotion, Eternal Affection, Powerful Attraction and Undying love. It is quite a challenging encounter that requires coordination and teamwork among members of a said raid group and a keen eye for Shakespearean references. (har-har)

Moving on, the references to Romeo and Juliet’s story does not stop there. A classmate of mine also reported on Shakespeare in gaming and mentioned that the NPC’s or non player characters that play the role of bankers in Undercity; a haven for undead are named  after some references from Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet.

Randolph Montague

Ophelia Montague

Ophelia Montague is taken from a synergy of the two plays; Ophelia from Hamlet and Montague from Romeo and Juliet. I also read on the official game forums that a Shakespeare fanatic posted a clever analysis regarding the said NPC. He stated that among all of the bankers in the said town, Ophelia Montague is the only one of them that is represented in game as a ghost. This is probably because in Ophelia’s story, she killed herself and the game developers at Blizzard decided that it would be cool and true to Shakespearean fact that the NPC be portrayed as such. Also, in Warcraft lore, the forsaken or undead are the end-result of the plague of undeath. All of them were humans before but now live and breathe as lifeless skeletons or ghosts, with their minds and allegiances intact and if one looks closely; this can be loosely attributed to Mercutio’s dialogue which goes something like “A plague o’ both your houses!”; the plague being that of the undeath.

There is also an item that is based on Romeo and Juliet called Julie’s dagger. It is an awesome weapon for rogues (a player class) and is attainable through killing monsters in game.

Julie's Dagger

It is an obvious reference to the dagger that Juliet uses to kill herself when she perceives that Romeo has passed, an unfortunate end to a beautiful love story if  I may say.


Blizzard also did not leave Macbeth out of the picture and I was quite delighted because this is my favorite Shakespearean play. I loved how Macbeth’s ambition drove him to do the unthinkable and the blood and gore that came with it was a welcome perk. Here are some of the references in game that are attributed to this play:

Full of Sound and Fury- Part of Macbeth's Soliloquy

Tomorrow,and tomorrow,and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.-Out,Out,brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow,a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.It is a tale,
Told by an idiot,Full of Sound and Fury,
Signifying Nothing- Act V Scene V of Macbeth

‘Full of Sound and Fury’ is an achievement that members of a raid group can aspire to complete. It is accomplished by killing Chimaeron; a two headed dragon in the Blackwing Descent raid instance with no more than two raid members dead. This is based on the scene where Macbeth was I believe, thinking about his wife’s death. Although the reference has no direct relation with the boss encounter, Blizzard nonetheless used it to add some sort of wit and creativity in a game already overflowing with it.

Covered in Blood that doesn't seem to wash away.

The item above is dropped by Yogg-Sarron a boss in the Ulduar raid encounter for level 80 players. It is a reference that is about Lady Macbeth as she was slowly being consumed by her guilt. Based on what I know, she was driven insane by her horrifying and gruesome actions and because of this, she killed herself. She uttered something like ‘blood that keeps coming back after being washed away’ and it is noticeable that the specified item is of a shade of crimson red; perhaps a signifier of blood and violence.


Illidan Stormrage looking at the Skull of Gul'dan

Illidan Stormrage, an iconic character in the Warcraft universe is also based on Hamlet. Here he is seen peering into the skull of Gul’dan because of his supposed insanity. This famous scene can be comparable to Hamlet looking into the Skull of Yorick. Although the stories that surround these two are quite different, common themes such as insanity, love and tragedy govern the two character’s lives. Illidan was partially driven insane because an unrequited love relationship that he shared with Tyrande Whisperwind, a night elf priestess. The contrary however existed in Hamlet’s tale because Ophelia; the woman was the one who was offering unrequited love which in turn caused her to become insane.

Well there you go folks, hope you all enjoyed reading through my nerdy essay 🙂

All images are courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment, image of Hamlet courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Hamlet looking into the skull of Yorick, a court jester.

Categories: Multimedia Essays
  1. fljimenez
    March 14, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    This is pretty cool; video games are pretty alien to me but it’s good to know Shakespeare’s got a presence there. Some critics have even begun considering video games a literary genre, or “interactive literature”. Why would Warcraft bring Shakespeare into its gameplay, and do you think that makes Warcraft more literary?

  2. geloty32
    March 15, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    I believe that Warcraft in essence has a great amount of lore and the story itself is fantastic and I believe that this is a manifestation of the concept of interactive literature. The Shakespearean references however could be the result of either the distinct parallelism of the characters in both Warcraft and his plays. Another possibility would be that these references were the result of bored but creative developers to make the game more appealing because there are a lot of pop culture references also carefully embedded within the game. And yes, I think that it made the game more literary because it contributed to the story’s depth and density. 🙂

  3. humunahumuna
    March 16, 2011 at 1:55 am

    Kick-ass essay you got here.:D Any idea if Blizzard included more Shakespeare references in the Cataclysm expansion? Haven’t gotten around to upgrading to that yet. (Read: lack of funds *sob*)

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