Bard at the Box Office

Shakespeare in the 21st Century

Shakespeare for Trekkies


Henry V as an android? Sure!

Shakespeare: even for those of us who know the basic language, it is sometimes difficult to plod through the reading of the plays, sonnets, et cetera. This isn’t just due to the fact that, to borrow the ever-popular phrase, “people don’t talk that way anymore.” As a matter of fact, that is only secondary to the fact that the plays were written to be performed, not read. Having limited experience of actually experiencing Shakespearean performances myself, I can definitely agree that seeing something performed is much different than reading it. But now, as the phrase goes, “there’s an app for that.” Well, actually, several.

The app that I’m most excited about is one in which the sonnets are read by Shakespearean actor Sir Patrick Stewart. While Stewart is first and foremost a Shakespeare actor, I would be hard pressed to think of a better experience than hearing Jean-Luc Picard read a Shakespearean sonnet.

For those of you who, like me, enjoy Star Trek: the Next Generation, you may remember that in season 1, Picard does recite quotes from the sonnets and Othello in order to rescue Councillor Troi’s mother from DaiMon Tog.

There are many allusions to Shakespeare in Star Trek, both in the original series and TNG. Someone has even put together a comprehensive compilation of the times that Shakespeare intersects with Star Trek. This makes for a fascinating read, and is much more than what I could manage.

A few interesting tidbits about Shakespeare and Star Trek:

1. Gene Roddenberry is an avid Shakespeare fan.

2. Both William Shatner and Patrick Stewart were Shakespearean actors before they began their work on Star Trek. Shatner, however, had a more difficult time transferring his acting methods from stage to screen. Shatner’s over-the-top gestures and enunciation, which would be suited quite well to the stage, did not carry over to television, since television is a medium where even the slightest gesture is seen without people needing to pay overly close attention.

3. Picard actually does have a copy of the complete works of Shakespeare in his private quarters.

4. Picard’s view that there is no better way to study the human condition than through Shakespeare is what prompts Data to enact Henry V on the holodeck, with himself in the title role.

5. “To explore strange new worlds” (Intro to Star Trek: TNG)…”O brave new world…” (The Tempest) Coincidence? I think not!

‘Til next time!


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2 thoughts on “Shakespeare for Trekkies

  1. Great post! I always enjoyed the way Next Gen worked in Shakespeare, and I especially enjoyed Data in Henry V.


  2. Thanks, wiseabundance! Glad you enjoyed the post!


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