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

Verily A New Hope

MAY THE VERSE BE WITH YOU!

Return once more to a galaxy far, far away with this sublime retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The sage 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, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the book you’re looking for.

I bought this as a present for a friend because the concept tickled me. When I got it home I started flicking through it … and before I knew it, I’d read the entire thing. (Sorry, Peter!)

Though I do love episode seven, I’d otherwise describe myself as a casual fan of the Star Wars franchise — I don’t own any of the DVDs and the only book I’ve read is Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath, because I’m a fan of his writing. Likewise, I’ve read some Shakespeare, but probably not since my university days.

Still, I’m familiar enough with each to recognise the famous quotes, which is fortunate, because I got a lot of joy from seeing Star Wars rendered in iambic pentameter, and from seeing Shakespeare quotes adapted to a Star Wars plot. (There was also a cheeky reference to Star Trek’s “boldly go” statement, which made me snigger.) Doescher has clearly taken a lot of care in adding these sorts of in-jokes for the reader, which take this book from a straight retelling to something both beautiful and slyly amusing.

The other thing I really liked about the adaptation is the Shakespearean use of the soliloquy to give glimpses into the true nature of each of the major characters. We hear C3PO talk about his true feelings for R2-D2 (despite his constant, snark-filled badgering), R2-D2 in turn reveal his disdain for C3PO, Darth Vader give a glimpse into the darkness in his soul, and Han reveal that he’s not just a scruffy criminal but something more. Luke’s starry-eyed desire for adventure and realisation it’s not all it’s cracked up to be makes me like his character more than his whining in the movie did.

The language is a lot easier to follow than genuine Shakespeare too, because — although Doescher has used the rhythm and basic linguistic trappings — I didn’t have to look up any of the words to see what they meant. YMMV. As I said, I haven’t read Shakespeare for a long time!

I strongly recommend this for fans of the movies who also love a bit of Shakespeare.

Four-and-a-half stars

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