by Ian Doescher
In time so long ago begins our play,
In star-crossed galaxy far, far away.
Star Wars, one of the most popular stories in the late 20th century, as William Shakespeare would have written it for his actors. Do I really need to tell you anything else? OK then. Written in iambic pentameter, the intergalactic war between the Empire and the Rebels is reborn and transformed. A young hero sets out on a quest to rescue a beautiful princess, partnering with two droids, a (Jedi) knight, and a pair of smugglers. Nicolas Delort brings the story vividly to life with black and white scratchboard illustrations that contain Shakespearean costumes and detail.
I’m an average fan of the original Star Wars trilogy. I’ve seen the movies multiple times and even read some of the book sequels (namely, the ones written by Timothy Zahn) but I didn’t bother to watch the newer movies after The Phantom Menace sucked so hard. From the minute I heard that Ian Doescher was working on a Shakespearean version of the story, I knew that I’d have to read it. Whether it was brilliant or a train wreck, I couldn’t resist the concept.
Thankfully, this play is rather brilliant. Reading the text aloud is the best way to experience it, I think, because you can feel the rhythm of the iambic pentameter and appreciate how smoothly it flows off the tongue. It’s a very successful imitation of Shakespeare, if Shakespeare had gone about writing about things like robots and spaceships. There are phrases and lines lifted directly from the Bard’s work, too, and it’s fun to puzzle out whether a particular passages comes from Shakespeare’s plays or Doescher’s Star Wars.
Some details that I believe came from the prequel films are slipped in. It helps tie the play into the complete Star Wars universe, which has expanded greatly since the original movie was written. For the most part, though, the play is pretty darn close to the movie’s script. One little change Doescher added was that he gave R2-D2 a voice. Now don’t get me wrong – R2-D2 still communicates with others in his series of beeps and chirps. But thanks to the power of Shakespearean soliloquy, R2-D2 can speak directly to the audience, showing off his erudite and clever soul. Or programming. Whatever droids have.
A chorus introduces and closes the play, and throughout the show they help ease the characters through situations too intense or explosive to be shown on a stage. The end result is a book that’s very readable, even for those who normally find Shakespeare too challenging, and could also be performed in front of a live audience. (Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I’m looking at you!) It’s definitely worth checking out!
4 out of 5 stars
To read more about William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.
Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: The Iron King (The Accursed Kings #1) by Maurice Druon
2012: The Burgermeister’s Daughter by Steven Ozment
2011: The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
2010: Angel and Apostle by Deborah Noyes
2009: Discussion Question: At what point do you give up on a book?