In time so long ago begins our play,
In a star-crossed galaxy far, far away.
Do those words sound familiar? Even vaguely? If you’re a Star Wars fan, they should. That’s the way the opening prologue ends in Ian Doescher’s marvelous re-telling of Star Wars set in Shakespearean verse. I saw this book–in fact the series of six books–in our local Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago and was too intrigued to pass it up. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S STAR WARS comes with the full backing and approval of George Lucas (it carries the “Lucas Books” logo though it’s actually published by Quirk Books), so it’s not a mere work of fan fiction. This is an homage to both the saga and the Bard, and it is very cleverly done. Take this snippet of monologue from the end of Act II:
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 thousand varied paths.
My uncle Owen and my aunt Beru,
Have they been cruelly kill’d for what I want?
So shall I never want again if in
The wanting all I love shall be destroy’d.
O fie! Thou knave adventure! Evil trick
Of boyhood’s mind that ever should one seek
To have adventure when one hath a home–
A family so kind so full of love,
Good, steady work, and vast, abundant crops–
Why would one give up all this gentle life
For that one beastly word: adventure? Fie!
The author, Ian Doescher says he is a life-long fan of Shakespeare, and even though he was born a few months after Star Wars hit screens, he is clearly well acquainted with the series. This isn’t really a review of the book. I’m not well-versed enough in Shakespeare to comment on its authenticity. But from what little I do know of Shakespeare, and what I’ve read of his plays, this has the ring of verisimilitude. And at the very least, it’s fun.
Dotted throughout the book are illustrations of characters from the movie in Elizabethan-type attire, drawn as if they were period woodcuts. Other elements that may resonate with fans of Shakespeare: a chorus that introduces scenes, and provides some third-person-omniscient insight into what’s going on:
Now, in her cell the princess doth remain,
With hope and trouble written on her face.
At times she faces torture, horrid pain.
With these tools Vader seeks the rebel base.
While Leia in her captive state is kept,
Young Luke and Obi-Wan set on their way.
Approaching town, they hope to intercept
A pilot to transport them sans delay.
This is soon followed by an exchange that should raise a smile on the face of any Star Wars fan:
TROOPER 3: I prithee, speak, how long hast thou these droids?
LUKE: ‘Tis three or, mayhap, four full seasons now.
OBI-WAN: We are prepar’d to sell them, shouldst thou wish.
CHORUS: Now is the Force to noble purpose us’d–
Not as the Sith, employing it to smite,
Hath through the dark side rank the Force abus’d–
Good Obi-Wan shall use the Force for right.
TROOPER 4: Pray, show me now thy papers.
OBI-WAN: —Nay, thou dost
Not need to see his papers.
TROOPER 4: –Nay, we do
Not need to see his papers.
OBI-WAN: –True it is,
That these are not the droids for which thou search’st.
TROOPER 3: Aye, these are not the droids for which we search.
OBI-WAN: And now, the lad may go his merry way.
TROOPER 3: Good lad, I prithee, go thy merry way!
OBI-WAN: Now get thee hence,
TROOPER 4: –Now get thee hence, go hence!
He also makes use of asides, that breaking of the “fourth wall” you never see in TV or movie drama, but is used frequently in Shakespearean dialog. For example:
C-3PO: I’ll tell thee true, I would with Master Luke
Prefer to go than now remain with thee.
I do not know what trouble here may be,
Yet certain am I thou deserv’st the blame.
R2D2: [aside:] I’ll warrant, thou shalt have thy recompense
[To C-3PO:] Squeak, whistle, beep, meep, nee, meep, whistle, squeak!
C-3PO: Hold thou thy cursing and most cursed tongue!
The way Doescher has written this, I could imagine it being performed on stage. Indeed, one of his hopes is that it will inspire young sci-fi fans to check out Shakespeare. I believe some schools are actually using this book, and this series, in the classroom to that end.
Intrigued? Look out for the series in your local library or bookstore:
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S STAR WARS by Ian Doescher:
- Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope
- The Empire Striketh Back
- The Jedi Doth Return
- The Phantom of Menace
- The Clone Army Attacketh
- Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge