In time so long ago begins our play,
In star-crossed galaxy far, far away.
Well, this was certainly a clever, fun, fresh and melodic diversion from a linguistic point of view, the (*other) key word here being “diversion”, interestingly.
(*in addition to “linguistic”, unsurprisingly)
William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope is a charming - wait for it - diversion of both the way of The Force and The Bard. And this is why I think it’s best appreciated if you already know your Shakespeare and Star Wars stuff. This probably sounds like the obvious thing to say, but if you've just seen Episodes IV – VI and the A Midsummer Night’s Dream movie starring Michelle Pfeiffer, there probably isn't much point in giving this book a go.
The admirable thing here is that Ian Doescher actually adapted the entire script of A New Hope into iambic pentameter, while also strategically developing completely new wording and monologues, most of which, I thought, work wonders and shed more light on or even enrich the idiosyncratic nature of the main characters, whom, à propos, we love so much becauseof their peculiarities.
A very characteristic example of this is Leia's grieving moments over the destruction of Alderaan. Because, come on fellow Star Wars geeks; let’s stop pretending this wasn't a loud omission in the original movie in the first place – what, NO reaction as you witness your home planet getting shattered to pieces?? I was 13 when I first watched Episode IV and it didn’t feel normal, not even back then. So massive thumbs ups to Doescher on picking this up and restoring justice so successfully.
There are also several parallels to Shakespeare’s work here, with obvious references to Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo And Juliet, Richard III and Julius Caesar . These are a bit of a hit-or-miss thing for me. Not because they’re badly written. On the contrary, I actually thought they were clever and witty most of the time, but there’s just so many of these in-jokes, they occasionally feel a little forced (and very very rarely just a weeeee bit cheeky). Maybe that’s just me though.
Another important part of this book is the author’s reliance on a chorus to offer the necessary background information and commentary on the drama, which adds a little Greek tragedy flavour. Obviously, this is a huge deviation from the Shakespearean approach, but personally I found it daring, interesting, elegant and entertaining, and besides, if I wanted to read Shakespeare, I would have read Shakespeare.
Ultimately, William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope is a super fun mashup and a delightful wordplay, that’s also best not to be taken too seriously.
If your Star Wars geekiness doesn’t allow you to tolerate the novelty, stay away.
If you’re expecting a version of Episode IV the way the Bard would have written it, stay away.
All other William and The Force fellow nerds:
Now sit and thou take heed,
For all’s prepar’d to jump unto lightspeed.