Book Review: “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars”

This book is exactly what is on the cover: “Star Wars: A New Hope” written in the style of William Shakespeare, and it is a glorious experience. It imitates the Bard’s style quite well, turning the familiar story of “A New Hope” into a worthy Shakespearean play with dialogue written in iambic pentameter, a list of Dramatis Personae at the beginning, lines for a chorus interspersed throughout the production, and a five act structure with stage directions galore. It even goes so far as to direct interested readers to the publisher’s website using a sonnet at the end of the book. There are a few illustrations scattered about the book showcasing the familiar “Star Wars” characters clothed in a mix of their familiar movie costumes and the capes and frills for which Shakespearean plays are known, which are a lot of fun to run into as the reader makes his or her way through the play. The author knows his audience and throws in interesting asides to fans from both sides of the fence. The characters make multiple subtle references to events, people, locations, and species in the outside of the original confines of “A New Hope” that will keep Star Wars fans grinning. The book also makes use of modified and paraphrased quotations to delight fans of Shakespeare’s work with references to many of the Bard’s great works.

It seems rather pointless to summarize the book’s plot, as it follows the story of the original movie almost exactly. Instead, it seems far more fitting to question how “Star Wars” could possibly sync up well with the well-known and often-loathed Shakespearean style of writing. As opposing as these two styles might initially seem, Lucas’s masterpiece actually has far more in common with Shakespeare’s plays than most people would think. Star Wars emulates many of the motifs, character archetypes, and complex relationships that are common throughout Shakespeare’s works. It is an epic story seen through the eyes of limited characters, struggling as much through conflicts of good versus evil as they grapple with their consciences in battles against their own selves. The Shakespearean style actually gives the author a chance to elaborate on some of the characters’ internal conflicts and musings. Darth Vader is given a couple of surprisingly poignant introspective monologues and even R2-D2 is given a chance to speak his mind through means other than beeps and whistles, though only in conversation with himself. The additional dialogue actually somewhat improves the story. R2-D2’s speaking parts make him seem even more clever than audiences usually give him credit for and the many soliloquies give the author a chance to better convey to the audience the thoughts and feelings of several characters, Luke in particular, as the story progresses. This imitation of the Bard’s unique tendencies in writing also lends itself to some excellent dialogue that balances well between wisdom and wit. Of course, no imitation of this sort would be complete without some of the glorious insults that Shakespeare tended to slip into his plays, so there are some really funny reprimands and retorts, including a wonderful moment where C3PO warns R2-D2, “Be thou not technical with me, or else thine input valve may swift receive a hearty helping of my golden foot.”

It is, at its core, a re-telling of “A New Hope,” but the style and additions this book makes not only add to the tale without taking anything away, but it also gives the reader a fresh perspective on a story he or she likely already knows well. The story is similar enough to the kind Shakespeare tended to write that fans of his work should quite enjoy this book. Even people who do not usually like Shakespeare may find themselves pleasantly surprised by how much they might like this work. It functions well as a story in its own right and is not a bad way to teach Star Wars fans how to interpret and understand a Shakespearean story. There is something in this book for everyone to enjoy and a path of literary discovery awaits reader. To quote Ian Doescher, the author of this delightful mash-up, “May the verse be with you.”

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