On the surface, George Lucas and William Shakespeare are about as different as ice cream and coffee. One is light and sweet, the other dark and deep. But when you think about it, they were both icons of their time, masters of their theatrical worlds.
Writer Ian Doescher is a graduate of Yale (twice) and holds a Ph.D. from the renowned Union Theological Seminary. But clearly, it was the Lucas-Shakespeare question that was on his mind when he wrote his first book, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope. He took the ice cream and the coffee and mashed them together, and what he made is delicious.
William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is a fully-licensed retelling of the original Star Wars movie in the style of the great Bard himself. Yes, that means the whole thing is told in iambic pentameter. Yes, that means there are additions to the original story, like a chorus and monologues and soliloquies.
It may sound crazy, but it works. It works well. In fact, it works so well that it made me laugh out loud, and it changed the way I’ll watch Star Wars in the future. I was once an English major, and I’ve always loved Shakespeare’s comedies, but the first few pages of a play written in verse are always a bit jarring. This book is no exception, but once you get into the groove it really starts to flow.
The story is broken down into a classic five-act structure. Doescher uses the chorus to suspend disbelief and to give a nod to the special effects that would never work on stage.
Beloved lines like Princess Leia’s “Aren’t you a little short to be a stormtrooper?” are also included, in verse of course. “Thou truly art in jest. Art though not small /Of stature, if thou art a stormtrooper?”
Aliens get in on the rhythmic action, too. The conversation between Han Solo and Greedo in Mos Eisley is fabulous. And regarding the “who shoots first” question, Doescher, too, leaves us hanging. Says Han Solo, “And whether I shot first, I’ll ne’er confess.”
My favorite part by far, though, is that Doescher gives R2-D2 a voice. Though he speaks to the other characters in beeps and boops, to the audience R2 soliloquizes:
“Although with sounds oblique I speak to them,
I clearly see how I shall play my part,
And how a vast Rebellion shall succeed
By wit and wisdom of a simple droid.”
The publisher, Quirk Books, is known for putting out fun and entertaining fiction. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies was one of their early successes, and I think they’ll have another hit with this one. If you’re a Star Wars fan or a Shakespeare fan, this is the book for you.