William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily A New HopeI was sure this book was a spoof, but I was delightfully surprised to find that Ian Doescher’s play is a serious work of art. While recasting the original story in Shakespearean style, Doescher has retained both the humor and the pathos of the famous film.

This is a marriage of true minds because both Lucas and Shakespeare draw upon motifs deeply rooted in our culture. Luke is the idealistic young hero who benefits from the wisdom of the sage, yet must find his own way. The sparring couple, Han and Leia, call to mind Kate and Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew and Benedict and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. Like Shakespeare’s plays, Star Wars also has fierce hand-to-hand combat, noble sacrifice, mistaken identity, and cold-hearted villainy.

As to the poetry, I thought it would sound ridiculously stilted to tell a sci-fi story in Elizabethan cadences, but surprisingly it does not. In fact, recasting Star Wars as a Shakespearean drama added a new level of meaning for me. The asides and soliloquies that Doescher adds flesh out the emotions and thought processes that are only hinted at in the movie. Take, for example, this soliloquy from Luke when he discovers the smoldering bodies of his aunt and uncle on Tatooine and tries to adjust his mind to his new destiny:

. . . Forward marches Fate, not the reverse.
So while I cannot wish for them to live,
I can my life commit unto their peace.
Thus shall I undertake to do them proud
And take whate’er adventure comes my way.
‘Tis now my burden, so I’ll wear it well,
And to the great Rebellion give my life.
A Jedi shall I be, in all things brave—
And thus shall they be honor’d in their grave.

As in the movie and in Shakespeare, this high drama is balanced by plenty of buffoonery and trading of colorful insults, as when C3PO expostulates with R2-D2: “Be not thou technical with me, / Or else thine input valve may swift receive / A hearty helping of my golden foot.” Sometimes the humor originates in well-known Shakespearean lines recast by Doescher, as when Luke and Han examine the instrument panel of the Milennium Falcon:

LUKE: . . . What light through yonder flashing sensor breaks?
HAN: It marks the loss of yon deflector shield.
I bid thee, peace! Now sit and thou take heed,
For all’s prepared to jump unto lightspeed.

For those who love both Star Wars and the Bard, this play is a treat. Prithee, read it now, and thou shalt yearn / For The Empire Striketh Back and The Jedi Doth Return!

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One Response to “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher”

  1. Best New Books of 2014: Sharon S’s Picks | Wake County Libraries "Book a Day" Staff Pick Says:

    […] William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope by Ian Doescher Hang on to your lightsabers! Doescher cleverly conflates famous lines from Shakespeare with famous scenes from Star Wars, making for a blend of comedy and drama worthy of the Bard himself. What I like best is getting to see into the minds of the characters through the asides and soliloquys. The series is continued in The Empire Striketh Back and The Jedi Doth Return. My family and I have been reading it aloud to each other (my husband plays the role of Chewbacca, and my 12-year-old son plays R2D2). See my full review. […]

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