Ian Doescher’s new book, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, combines the grandeur and sweep of everyone’s favorite space opera with the linguistic style and formatting of the Bard’s greatest plays. References to both Shakespeare and the Star Wars saga have become so commonplace in popular culture that readers should have little trouble picking up at least some of the wordplay. And that’s what Doescher does throughout the book.
Written largely in iambic pentameter, the script can be read like a novel, much like Shakespeare’s own plays. I couldn’t help thinking how much fun this must have been to reinterpret for stage in Elizabethan verse. Many of the Bard’s classic lines are tweaked to fit characters and situations in a Galaxy Far, Far Away. More than once I earned strange looks from laughing at particular scenes, whether it was C3P0 massacring lines from Hamlet or Han Solo misquoting Mercutio from Romeo and Juliet.
Many of the Lucas’s characters already bear a resemblance to archetypes used in Shakespearean narratives. Obi-wan recalls wise leaders like Prospero in Tempest. The ‘plain dealing villain’ of the play, Darth Vader, lusts for revenge even more than Don John of Much Ado About Nothing. The two droids, R2D2 and C3PO, observe the action much like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of Hamlet.
However, other Lucas characters are tweaked to resemble Shakespearean ones. My favorite ‘twist’ by far is that of the small droid, R2D2, who waxes eloquent to the audience while ‘play(ing) the fool’ with squeals and beeps to his fellow characters. Hamlet’s feigned madness couldn’t be echoed in a more entertaining manner.
Heroes and villains play out in epic scale, only the setting has changed: space instead of ancient Rome, the Death Star instead of Denmark – though that doesn’t indicate a lack of humor. Characters lapsing into long, eloquent speeches in the middle of action scenes parodies famous monologues. The play’s chorus fills in gaps between action scenes, and I kept imagining Derek Jacobi wandering around the Death Star narrating lightsaber battles. This play would be incredible performed, but barring that, fans of both playwrights should enjoy William Shakespeare’s Star Wars as a witty homage and a fun read.