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Sonderbooks Book Review of

William Shakespeare's Star Wars

Verily, a New Hope

by Ian Doescher


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William Shakespeare's Star Wars

Verily, a New Hope

by Ian Doescher

Review posted September 6, 2014.
Quirk Books, Philadelphia, 2013. 174 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Cybils Finalist

I’m going to list this on the Teens page – but this is truly a book that spans all ages. I brought it to a party of adults playing Eurogames, and they were all delighted and spontaneously read bits aloud. One of them was a homeschooler, and we agreed that it would be perfect for a group of middle school students getting ready to tackle Shakespeare.

What is it? The complete story of the first Star Wars movie, told in iambic pentameter, as Shakespeare would surely have written it, had he ever heard of space ships. This isn’t a straight translation. The author also used Shakespearean devices such as a Chorus to describe action and multiple uses of soliloquies to tell what the characters are thinking and planning.

This book truly begs to be read aloud or, better yet, performed. And, since everyone knows the story of Star Wars so well, any Shakespearean language the reader doesn’t understand will be readily made clear.

Here’s the scene where Luke has just met Obi Wan Kenobi:

CHORUS
Now holdeth Luke the weapon in his hand,
And with a switch the flame explodes in blue.
The noble light Luke’s rev’rence doth command:
That instant was a Jedi born anew.

OBI-WAN
[aside:] Now doth the Force begin to work in him.
[To Luke:] For many generations Jedi were
The guarantors of justice, peace, and good
Within the Old Republic. Ere the dark
Times came and ere the Empire ‘gan to reign.

LUKE
How hath my father died?

OBI-WAN
[aside:] --O question apt!
The story whole I’ll not reveal to him,
Yet may he one day understand my drift:
That from a certain point of view it may
Be said my answer is the honest truth.
[To Luke:] A Jedi nam’d Darth Vader – aye, a lad
Whom I had taught until he evil turn’d –
Did help the Empire hunt and then destroy
The Jedi. [Aside:] Now, the hardest words of all
I’ll utter here unto this innocent,
With hope that one day he shall comprehend.
[To Luke:] He hath thy Father murder’d and betray’d,
And now are Jedi nearly all extinct.
Young Vader was seduc’d and taken by
The dark side of the Force.

Ian Doescher includes a note at the end of the book as to why Shakespeare and Star Wars make a natural pairing. I’m happy to report that the trilogy continues in The Empire Striketh Back.