THE ORIGINAL HAMLETChancellor Gorkon: I offer a toast. The undiscovered country… the future. Everyone: The undiscovered country. Spock: Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1. Gorkon: You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.
The Klingon Hamlet (full title: The Tragedy of Khamlet, Son of the Emperor of Qo’noS) was a project to translate William Shakespeare’s Hamlet into Klingon, a constructed language first appearing in the television series Star Trek. Shakespeare in the ‘original Klingon’ is an echo in the novel of Vladimir Nabokov’s eponymous hero Pnin, who taught his American college class that Shakespeare was much more moving ‘in the original Russian.’
The original English version of the play appears alongside its ‘original Klingon’ translation. The ‘original Klingon’ version has been adapted to reflect the play’s history as originating from a Klingon source. Reference sections in the book show some literal translations of the Klingon body text.
According to a disclaimer, the project is written in a satirical style implied by Chancellor Gorkon’s quote — that Shakespeare was actually a Klingon (named Wil’yum Shek’sper) writing about the attempted coup of the Klingon empire. This is implied because the plot is based on predominantly Klingon themes and motifs as opposed to human themes and motifs, which were considered too primitive in comparison to the story of Hamlet during the time period in which it is set. The notion that Shakespeare was a human writing during Renaissance times was only introduced after the United Federation of Planets instigated a large propaganda campaign in order to rally people against Klingons.
The Klingon Language Institute (KLI) printed and published a limited edition hardback version in 1996, entitled Hamlet Prince of Denmark: The Restored Klingon Version (ISBN 0-9644345-1-2). Star Trek publisher Pocket Books published the work as a trade paperback (ISBN 0-671-03578-9) in 2000.
quv’a’, yabDaq San vaQ cha, pu’ je SIQDI’?
pagh, Seng bIQ’a’Hey SuvmeH nuHmey SuqDI’,
‘ej, Suvmo’, rInmoHDI’? Hegh. Qong – Qong neH –
‘ej QongDI’, tIq ‘oy’, wa’SanID Daw”e’ je
cho’nISbogh porghDaj rInmoHlaH net Har.
Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1.
(Trans. by Nick Nicholas & Andrew Strader, KLI, 1995.)