William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: a new hope for fans

130316023938_shakespeare-3_4_r536_c534It’s May 4th, or as we nerds say. it’s Star Wars Day! I thought I’d celebrate by brushing off a review I did a couple of years ago.

May the 4th be with you!

I’m a part of the Star Wars generation. The original movie came out the summer I turned 12. Back in 1977 no one had ever seen a movie quite like this. Between the special effects (who can forget the Death Star explosion) and makeup, it was Hollywood magic at its finest. Even my mother, a jaded movie critic gasped when Obi-Wan and Luke entered the cantina. Everyone I knew wanted to see Star Wars, and for many of us kids, once was not enough. By summer’s end I’d watched it 12 times.

Even today it holds a special place in my heart. Maybe because it came out in the twilight of my innocence. That last summer between adolescence and teen angst. Or maybe because I just remember how much fun my friends and I had watching it, acting it out, (yes, we were at that age where that sort of behavior was acceptable) and arguing over key moments in the movie; we were also of the age that philosophical thought started to creep into our discussions. Was Luke destined to be a Jedi, or was it dumb luck that cast his fate?

Star Wars remains one of my favorite movies. But as the years past I moved on, finding new loves and new subjects of philosophical debate. Shakespeare is now the topic of many long discussions; though I do recall one in which Hamlet and Luke were subjected to comparison. Both at times, hesitated to do what was needed and both have some serious daddy issues!


Why am I bringing this up? Well, a few weeks ago I was offered the chance to review Ian Doescher’s book William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. The nerd in me jumped at the chance to read this mash-up. What science nerd/Shakespeare geek wouldn’t?

Of course I wondered if it would be any good and if the Bard scholar in me would find fault on every page. So how did it do?

The book exceeded my expectations; although to be fair, my expectations were rather low. I hoped for a few hours of light entertainment. What I got was a few hours of pure delight. From the opening lines to the last I was hooked.

C-3PO- Now is the summer of our happiness

Made winter by this sudden, fierce attack!

Our ship is under siege, I know not how.

O hast thou heard? The main reactor fails!

We shall most surely be destroy’d by this.

I’ll warrant madness lies herein!

The adult Shakespeare lover in my admired Doescher’s ability to stick to some of Lucas’ original words while giving them a Shakespearean make-over. But the biggest surprise and delight came from Doescher’s novel idea to place Shakespeare-like asides and soliloquies in key moments. These monologs offers Star Wars fans new vantage points to view the characters and their motivations. Take Luke’s inner struggle after finding his aunt and uncle’s chard remains:

Adventure have I ask’d for in this life,

and now have I too much of my desire.

My soul within me weeps: my mind, it runs

unto a thousand varied paths.

My uncle Own and my aunt Beru,

have they been cruelly kill’d for what I want?

As the soliloquy goes on,we get the idea that Luke feels guilt and pressure over this tragedy. He vows to fight so that his family will be “honor’d in their grave”.

From R2D2 to Vader, these innermost thoughts add depth to the story, and dare I say it?  Make it a little better. Yep, I am telling you that Doescher’s retelling breaths new life into the Lucas’ world.

I wish this book had come out when the other mash-up were popular. I got my son to read and admire Jane Austin with Pride Prejudice and Zombies. If he had read Doescher’s book in high school he may have had an easier time with Shakespeare. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is a wonderful introduction into Shakespearean verse. Getting students used to “Shakespeare “speak” can be a challenge. Doescher’s book may ease some of their fear of Shakespeare.

Are there mistakes? Yes, the biggest is that Doescher doesn’t modify speaking styles; the higher class should be speaking in verse, and the lower in prose, a style  Shakespeare used to show the difference in classes. Am I complaining? No, not really, I had too much fun reading this book and I hope you will to.

Anon. May the verse be with you!

Author: sarij

I'm a writer, lifelong bibliophile ,and researcher. I hold a Bachelors in Humanities & History and a Master's in Humanities. When I'm not reading or talking about Shakespeare or history, you can usually find me in the garden discussing science or politics with my cat.

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