Friday, February 27, 2015

Book Review: William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope (William Shakespeare's Star Wars #1) by Ian Doescher

Release Date: July 2nd, 2013
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Quirk Books
Age group: Adult
Pages: 174
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Rating: 4/5

Description (from Goodreads):

Inspired by one of the greatest creative minds in the English language—and William Shakespeare—here is an officially licensed retelling of George Lucas's epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ’Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearsome Stormtroopers, signifying...pretty much everything.

Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter—and complete with twenty gorgeous Elizabethan illustrations—William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the book you’re looking for.


Star Wars and William Shakespeare together? COUNT ME IN!

Ian Doescher has done something that should have been done years ago (maybe someone has done it before, but this is the first time I have come across it). The film, Star Wars is familiar to us all, usually even to people who have not seen the film. And of course, everyone should know who Shakespeare is. 

Loyal to the style of Shakespeare and his plays, the story is told in iambic pentameter, thus making the dialogue of the original movie fit to the Elizabethan time period. There are also some pretty kickass illustrations in the novel, my favorite being one in which Luke holds a Storm Trooper helmet (like Hamlet holding a skull). 

There is a book called The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell some of you might be familiar with. Basically it is a discussion about the theory of the journey the archetypal heroes go through in different mythologies. After researching these different hero journeys, Campbell came up with the definition called monomyth, which he summarized by saying : "A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man."  While forming this theory Campbell looked into the work of Freud (Oedipus complex) and Jung, for example. But other important source of Campbell were the stories and mythologies found around the work, including the works of Shakespeare - Hamlet was among his list of archetypal heroes mentioned.

The death of innocents doth bring me joy,
Because the dark side is my chosen path,
The senseless end of others pains me not.
For I have play'd the part of judge severe
And then have been the executioner
Why would I care for those on Alderaan,
When I have murder'd innocents as they?
'This my dark calling, which I do embrace
To Alderaan we fly on course direct,
And to this feast of death I'll not object.

When making Star Wars, George Lucas was intentionally using Campbell's theory of monomyth. Thus the link is established - Shakespeare wrote plays with archetypal characters, Campbell researched them and then Lucas used Campbell's theories to write the characters to Star Wars. Thus, the characters and the relationships found from Star Wars fit perfectly to the format of a Shakespeare play. There is the difficult father/son relationship between Darth Vader and Luke which can be found also from for example Hamlet (and also The Tempest, but in that case it is between a daughter and father). In Shakespeare's plays the villains are also usually very easy to identify, like Sith Lords, and they are usually purely evil - examples of this are for example Iago from Othello. There are also shared themes between Star Wars and Shakespeare's plays - for example Macbeth is also about the desire for power and the actions of fate and destiny.

"Thou shalt not label me
A mindless, brute philosopher! Nay, nay,
Thou overladen glob of grease, thou imp
Thou rubbish bucket fit for scrap, thou blue
And silver pile of bantha dung! Now, come,
And get thee hence away lest someone sees." 

What I usually love most about Shakespeare plays are the interesting side characters, such as Caliban from The Tempest. These side characters usually bring humor to the play or somehow comment on the actions taken by the other characters, making it easier for the people to follow the events that are taking place. In Shakespeare's Star Wars, 3-CPO and R2-D2 are the observant side characters who comment on the events in a very humoristic manner. Obi -Wan Kenobi is an interesting one because at first he is the mentor and the wise man (almost like Prospero from The Tempest), but later on he becomes the haunting, advice giving ghost who reaches the hero (like Hamlet's father). 

I have done some research about the Elizabethan staging conventions for university and I was glad to find some links to those from Doescher's work. The characters talk "aside", which means that despite the fact that they are in close proximity to the characters they are talking about, their words are only heard about the audience - this is a convention that was familiar to the Elizabethan audiences and using it, Doescher adds a bit more credibility to his work. There are also monologues and soliloquies which are also widely used in Shakespeare's writing. The different elements of the set are also mentioned in the dialogue because the sets of Shakespeare plays were usually limited to only a couple of key items such as the throne which established a king from the other members of the cast. In this case, the small items mentioned were ones such as light sabers and Darth Vader's helmet. 

A must read for every Star Wars/Shakespeare enthusiast.

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