Leia, a Princess for the rest of us

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.

I was 12 when the original Star Wars hit the theater for the first time. It was the summer I had my first open heart surgery. My mom took me to see the movie to get my mind off of all the things that were bothering me.

I was short, dark haired and dark eyed. Not the desired look for a California teen. It was bad enough I wasn’t born blond and blue eyed, but now the doctors told me I would have a scar running between my small breast. That awkward teen age, you know the one between puberty and young adulthood, is hard enough on all us, but imagine knowing you’d be marked for life with a scar right in the place guys usually look first. Needless to say, I thought my social life was over before it even started.

But then, in that dark movie theater a girl lit up the place. She was short, dark haired, dark eyed, and had a round face, just like me! Lo and behold, a Princess, unlike any I had seen before was front and center, holding her own while also impressing the guys. This was no ordinary princess; she was no damsel in distress!

That summer, as I physically healed as only children can do, my friends and I saw Star Wars 12 times. It was 1977 in a small town with little to do, plus it was Star Wars! Theaters across the nation kept the movie playing all summer. It was the first real blockbuster and first movie to have such a long run. It was the summer of magic for me.

All the guys talked about wanting Princess Leia and all the girls talked about wanting to be Princess Leia. For the first time I felt lucky to be a short dark haired girl. It was easy for me to dress up as Leia that next Halloween to the dismay of all of my tall blond friends. Finally, we short girls had someone we could look up to, someone who looked and acted like us. We had our own Princess and this one kicked ass!

That was my introduction to Princess Leia and Carrie Fisher. I’ve watched her over the years. I applauded her efforts to overcome her demons and rejoiced as she fought back against those who wanted to tear her down for daring to age. I admired her spirit and courage.

I just happened to see Rouge One on Monday, and while I did not enjoy the movie as much as I had hoped, I did enjoy seeing Princess Leia, the young Leia one more time. For a moment I was thrust back to my childhood and remembered all that she had done for me. But just as quickly as my joy returned it was shattered with the news of her passing. A heart attack? At 60? That hits way to close to home. I am still stunned but thankful that she may have never known what happened. I can only hope she is finally and totally at peace. I hope the Force is with her.

It turns out we have one more thing in common. Fisher enjoyed Shakespeare. Here she is reading Sonnet 29. Coincidentally, this was the first sonnet I read out loud in my intro to Shakespeare class. We had to pick one, tear it apart line by line and then read after we felt comfortable with its contents. How uncanny this is the one she chose too.

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!

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