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William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher

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!

R2-D2: Beep beep,
Beep, beep, meep, squeak, beep, beep, beep, whee!

A Shakespearean/Star Wars mashup? Who comes up with these ideas? I went into this book with a great deal of skepticism. Being a lover of all things Shakespeare and the “first” three Star Wars movies, I thought that this book would be gimmicky and absurd. As soon as I read the opening lines, as quoted above, I found myself laughing out loud and loving it. This review assumes that you have read at least one Shakespearean play and that you know the Star Wars Episode 4 story. If not, beware the spoiler kitty!

If you are a lover of Shakespeare, this book is for you. Doescher manages the iambic pentameter beautifully and fills the story with sly allusions to at least a dozen plays. I am sure that there are many that I missed, but the ones I caught were brilliantly integrated into the story:

Luke: O, I am Fortune’s fool. ‘Tis true, ‘tis true,
And gazing now upon the double sun
Of my home Tatooine, I know full well
That elsewhere lies my destiny, not here.

There are many, many more that I just loved and I was tempted to list them all. One of the joys of this book, however, is stumbling across the various allusions as you read it. So, I leave you to find the others.

Because Shakespeare wrote for the stage and not the screen, he uses soliloquies to enable his viewers/readers to know what the people on stage are thinking. Doescher uses this technique flawlessly, having everyone else exeunt while the final character on stage continues to speak. Nearly every character gets one, the best being R2-D2. To “hear” him speak in an understandable language is a joy that must be experienced.

It wouldn’t be a Shakespearean riff without one soliloquy from Hamlet and Doescher does not disappoint:

Luke: Alas, poor stormtrooper, I knew ye not,
Yet have I ta’en both uniform and life
From thee.

Of course, in the movie there are scenes with no dialogue. Never fear, Doescher uses a Chorus to tell us what is going on:

With mind unsure Luke readies for the fight.
The small remote doth dodge most suddenly,
But with calm mind Luke blocks its lasers bright --
With inner eye the Force has let him see.

There is a lot from the Chorus as Star Wars is such a visual movie. This is especially evident in the final showdown and destruction of the Deathstar which is the one section of the story that didn’t work as well as some of the others.

If you are a lover of Star Wars, this book if for you. Doescher does not rewrite the story; in fact, he follows the structure of the movie nearly exactly. The story is filled with allusions to what we don’t know until later movies, but again they are handled so well that they become laugh out loud moments. Neither does Doescher shy away from the fun controversies:

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!

If you are not a lover of Shakespeare or Star Wars, I’m not sure this is the book for you. It is a riff on them both and the jokes are all “in-jokes.” If you are not in a position to catch and appreciate them, I think this would get very old very quickly.

Is this book great literature? Of course not; it doesn’t pretend to be. It is, however, a truly fun read that I devoured in one sitting and then immediately read again, laughing out loud both times through.

And ever shall the Force remain with thee.

ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.

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