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Book Review - William Shakespeare's Star Wars
In hindsight, it seems inevitable - a mashup between two of culture's biggest powerhouses, William Shakespeare and "Star Wars." After all, we can all recite Shakespeare's iconic lines in our sleep - "To be or not to be," "All the world's a stage," and on, And I'm pretty sure we can do the same with "Star Wars." This sublime translation of "Star Wars" into iambic pentameter is exactly what it should be - lyrical, dramatic, elegant, and fun.
I should note here that I am a huge "Star Wars" geek. I'm also a long-time ex-subscriber to my local Shakespeare Theatre (which I let lapse only because getting to Chicago's Navy Pier at rush hour is quite difficult). I am also a fan of Quirk Books' Jane Austen/zombie/sea creature/mummy mashups. Given that, William Shakespeare's Star Wars, by Ian Doescher was a natural draw for me.
As with anything written in imitation of an older style - in this case, Elizabethan English - you have to take it with a grain of salt. No way a present-day writer is going to match Shakespeare's adept turn-of-phrase styling that resulted in new words and phrases we still use today. Also, conversely, many of the words that Shakespeare used are actually no longer with us, and those rarely appear in here either - probably because it would just be too hard.
Having said that, the poetry and language in this book seems spot-on enough for a modern-day audience. And William's Shakespeare's Star Wars includes period standards such as a chorus, to outline the plot, and monologues for players to explain their motivations - even R2-D2 gets a few. On occasion, an oft-quoted Shakespeare phrase gets co-opted, as when R2-D2 says, "A plague upon both our circuit boards, I say!"
Here are a few examples you may recognize:
"Leia: O help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, help./Thou art mine only hope."
"Obi-Wan: --Nay, thou dost/Not need to see his papers.../--True it is/That these art not the droids for which thou searchst."
And Leia sings: "When Alderaan hath blossom'd bright/Then sang we songs of nonn,/But now her day is turn'd to night,/ Sing hey and lack-a-day."
"C-3PO: No heart within this golden breast doth beat,/For only wires and circuit boards are here./ Yet as I hear my Master's dying screams/No heart is necessary for my grief. A droid hath sadnesses, and hopes, and fears,/And each of these emotions have I felt/Since Master Luke appear'd and made me his."
"Red Ten: Red Ten doth here stand by."
Intrigued? You should be. Because we all know the plot of "Star Wars" already, and because this book doesn't use a lot of the anachronistic terms that might confuse us in a real Shakespeare work (i.e. bawbling or tortive or tropically), this isn't a hard read at all. It's actually a brilliant and super-cool way to meld pop culture and high culture, which I'd say is one of Quirk Books' specialties. And there's more emotional content and character depth than you'd think, thanks to monologues and asides and the occasional brief straying into other parts of the "Star Wars" mythology that we know and love.
Quirk Books' William Shakespeare's Star Wars, subtitled "Verily, A New Hope" is due out July 2 for $14.95. Visit the website at www.quirkbooks.com.
And in case you're wondering, Greedo may or may not have shot first.
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