William Shakespeare's Star Wars : Verily, A New Hope

William Shakespeare's Star Wars - Ian Doescher

(I've had my sights on this book for quite a while. When I saw it up on Edelweiss, I promptly requested a digital copy, and was pretty glad I was approved quickly. All this in exchange for an honest review, of course.)

I must confess I'm a long-time Shakespeare addict. I sure don't find all his works wonderful, I have my favourites and my not-so-favourites, and sometimes I take it more in jest than in earnest, but we're nevertheless speaking here of someone who recognises her iambic pentameters when she sees them, and who can still quote most of Edmund's speeches even five years after studying King Lear. I am, simply put, totally biased, and not ashamed of it the least bit.

I'm also an old Star Wars nerd. Seriously. I stopped counting a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away) how many times I watched the original triolgy—both the first version and the remastered one. Also, know that I drive to the tune of Darth Vader's voice giving me directions whenever I turn my GPS on.

Simply put, as I was reading this play, I kept thinking: "My, actually staging it would be great, and I'd probably be ready to do it, even though I have no experience whatsoever in theatrics".

I also couldn't help but find traces of Joseph Campbell in there, which the afterword confirmed, and which isn't surprising at all. Shakespeare's plays rest on a lot of classical archetypes, and George Lucas's do as well, considering his own contacts with Campbell's works. (Have I ever said I deeply admire the latter?)

This book contains a lot of things I loved:
* Hints at scenes from Shakespeare's plays, including Luke delivering a "poor Yorick" soliloquy while contemplating the helmet of the Stormtrooper whose armour he stole.
* Proper use of "wherefore" (honestly, you have no idea how good it is to find an author who doesn't mistake it for "where").
* Hilarious asides from R2D2, whose bleeping and various other noises are only a cover for real thoughts. Pretty much like the typical Fool, in fact.
* Tongue-in-cheek quips at the movies:

HAN: Aye, true, I’ll warrant thou hast wish’d this day.
[They shoot, Greedo dies.
[To innkeeper:] Pray, goodly Sir, forgive me for the mess.
[Aside:] And whether I shot first, I’ll ne’er confess!


* Leaning on, or even breaking the fourth wall, and addressing the audience, much like in the original plays.
* Strong attempts at respecting the movie's lines:

VADER I find thy lack of faith disturbing


or

LEIA Thou truly art in jest. Art thou not small
Of stature, if thou art a stormtrooper?


* Actual stage directions—probably one of the reasons why I felt this could very well be staged.
* Iambic pentameters. I checked. I counted. They're not so easy to pull.
* Illustrations in the shape of etchings featuring Star Wars characters with their normal looks combined to some late Elizabethan fashion elements.

I was less at ease with the fifth act, though, and I think it was mainly because the Star Wars scene is a space battle, yet trying to conform to stage directions led to a lot of talking and describing actions. The attempt didn't work so well as it did in other parts of the book. I also questioned how the book may be perceived if read by someone who doesn't appreciate both SW and Shakespeare: I'm not convinced it would make a good introduction to either of those. One definitely needs to be acquainted with both to start appreciating it.

Overall: a few things I didn't like, but that never hampered my enjoyment of the book. I found it cleverly executed, as well as both a fun read and one that made me try and match scenes/quotes from the movies with their potential parallels in Shakespeare's plays.