Book Review: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy, by Ian Doescher.
Verily, the force ’tis strong with these!
I’ve always felt like kind of a minority among Internet reviewers. Most of the ones I follow seem to be huge fans of Star Trek and prefer it over Star Wars, but with me it’s the exact opposite. I never got into Star Trek, and maybe it’s the fact that I saw the Star Wars prequels first, but I don’t hate them as much as everyone else seems to. Granted, nowadays I can understand why people like the Star Trek movies (well, half of them anyway) and hate the Star Wars prequels, even though I don’t agree with all of it. But with the upcoming release of The Force Awakens, I think it’s time that I shared with you something awesome that I discovered completely by accident–William Shakespeare’s Star Wars.
Give that title a second to sink in–William. Shakespeare’s. Star Wars. It sounds strange, obviously–but impossible? Well, not if you really think about it. Star Wars has been called a space opera, and what are operas if not stage plays with singing? On top of that, themes like war, betrayal, coming of age, and shifting allegiances are present in both Star Wars and many, MANY Shakespeare plays. And if Wrath of Khan can be Shakespearean, then why can’t Star Wars? And therein lies the logic behind Ian Doescher’s adaptation of the original Star Wars trilogy into three books/stage plays, under the brand of “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars.”
Now, if you’re the skeptical type, as most of us on the Internet are, and the inherent awesomeness of this idea hasn’t overwhelmed your senses yet, you might be thinking “What’s the point? It just sounds like you’re adapting the original Star Wars scripts into Ye Olde English.” The people who think that, probably aren’t Shakespeare fans. Admittedly, they can be a bit hard to get into nowadays, but if you go back and read them, or even see a good screen adaptation, you’ll probably find there’s a reason why Shakespeare is quoted by everyone. (Hi Kyle.) First off, there’s a poetry to his language–and I’m not talking about iambic pentameter, at least not necessarily. I mean, he has a way of making the most mundane dialogue sing, and that’s true in this adaptation as well.
“This Force, by troth, I’ll never comprehend!
It doth control and also doth obey?
And ’tis within and yet it is beyond,
‘Tis both inside and yet outside one’s self?
What paradox! What fickle-natur’d pow’r!
Aye: frailty, thy name– belike–is Force.”–Luke Skywalker
One thing that both Shakespeare and Doescher perfected was the art of the soliloquy, shown here. Basically, it’s like a monologue with more rhythm. When characters have a monologue in a movie, it’s just them speaking–but here, that speech has rhythm and tempo to it that helps it resonate with the reader.
In addition, one advantage Ian Doescher has over the original Star Wars trilogy? Hindsight. Even those who are Star Wars fans probably realized at some point that, despite his claims to the contrary, George Lucas didn’t plan EVERYTHING out when creating Star Wars, even just the original trilogy. “From a certain point of view,” anyone? But now that all of the movies are out, you can look at something from the first movie and tie it in to something in the third. So in some ways, this retelling actually covers up plot holes the original movies had. Another invention of Shakespeare is the aside, a monologue from one character to the audience. This is usually used to provide more insight into a character’s motivation, which is true here as well. Obi-Wan doesn’t tell Luke that Vader is his father (spoilers!) because he doesn’t think he’d be ready to know. And surprisingly enough, another character that gets asides to the audience? R2-D2. Yes, R2-D2 has actual lines in this series that don’t just involve beeping and squeaking. And they pretty much confirm the fan theory that R2 is really a snarky character who feels like he’s surrounded by either idiots or cowards–or both, in 3PO’s case.
“This golden droid has been a friend, ’tis true,/ And yet I wish to still his prating tongue!/ An imp, he calleth me? I’ll be reveng’d,/ And merry pranks aplenty I shall play/ Upon this pompous droid C-3PO!/ Yet not in language shall my pranks be done:/ Around both humans and droids I must/ Be seen to make such errant beeps and squeaks/ That they shall think me simple. Truly, though,/ Although with sounds obilque 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. [R2-D2]”
And of course, who could resist throwing in a few references to the Star Wars fandom, considering how huge it is.
“I pray thee, sir, forgive me for the mess/And whether I shot first, I’ll not confess.- Han Solo”
I haven’t spent much time going over the plot, I know–but really, it’s the original Star Wars trilogy, I hardly need to. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you probably know it by heart–but honestly, that’s part of what makes William Shakespeare’s Star Wars so great. These movies are so famous you’ve probably seen them through parody enough to know how the original movies go–and yet, by converting it into Shakespeare plays, you see the original trilogy through new eyes. This is one remake that gives a completely different, and I daresay, even better feel to the original.
One word of advice before we go, though–if you can, don’t just get the books. Get the audiobooks, at least the ones on Audible. They have a full cast, and the dialogue sounds even better when read aloud–you know, like an actual play. But however you experience them, this is one piece of Star Wars media where the force is definitely strong.