As an unabashed lover of both Star Wars and the Bard, I simply could not pass up the opportunity to read a mash-up of the two. Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is great fun to read. The author manages to capture the quintessential myths underpinning Star Wars and make them over using an Elizabethan idea of drama. All of the elements of good Shakespearian drama are present and Doescher uses the medium to explore the characters in new ways.
Shakespearian plays are the settings of high drama, regardless of genre. This version of Star Wars manages to bridge the gap between the Flash Gordon-inspired films and Shakespeare’s sensibilities regarding destiny, power, and the struggle between good and evil. If you’re a writer and you haven’t borrowed an archetype or two from the Bard, you’re not doing it right. Even Lucas drew from the same well of myths as Shakespeare, which he discovered through the writings of the late Joseph Campbell. Doescher makes every effort to reconcile these two threads. The dialogue is clunky at times (even by Shakespearian standards). It’s difficult to picture the more fantastical elements (such as Vader’s duel with Kenobi or the Death Star trench run) working on stage.
The characters we know and adore take center stage in this adaptation. Doescher allows his chosen form to reveal character traits through asides and soliloquies, much like Shakespeare did. Each of the main characters gets their chance to stand center stage and reveal their desires, their fears, and their doubts to the reader (as they would on stage). There are moments, like with Obi-wan contemplating telling Luke about Vader’s identity, which were only told through expressions and body language in the film.
The writing takes prominence in this book. Doescher uses iambic pentameter effectively most of the time. Given the constraints of merging Elizabethan phrasing with technobabble, Doescher does an excellent job. The information is conveyed in such a way through the text that a reader could grasp what the characters are trying to say. Doescher also manages to find interesting ways to throw in the most memorable lines from the film into the dialogue. The downside of iambie pentameter (aside from it not being a familiar cadence for modern readers) is the often indirect ways something has to be said. There are times the dialogue is spotty or more of a mouthful than would be comfortable. Sometimes the dialogue meanders its way to where it needs to go, which can be a problem for those not familiar with Shakespeare’s plays. The first two acts are quick reads, as is the fifth act. The third and fourth are the most problematic in terms of writing and feel like they drag on and on. These acts are incidentally the escape from the Death Star sequence.
Despite the sometimes laborious sections, I heartily recommend this book for Star Wars fans and fans of the Bard’s great works. It isn’t often that I’m surprised by a book but this book accomplished that feat.