Star Wars: Review: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series

SHakespeare star warsBy Ian Doescher

Quirk, out now

“In time so long ago begins our play,

In clash-strewn galaxy far, far away.”

Shakespeare has been an inspiration for genre writers for many years – from the liberal borrowing of his plots and characters for books and movies to the reworking of his text into fictional languages (such as The Klingon Hamlet). In many ways, turnabout is fair play: Shakespeare himself was not averse to reworking previous writers’ work and presenting them afresh to his audience at The Globe so there is ample precedent for Ian Doescher’s retelling of George Lucas’ Star Wars saga, with its universal themes played out in that galaxy far, far away.

The series has followed the release order of the films (i.e. the proper order!) rather than the chronological storyline, with the most recent book reworking the screenplay of Attack of the Clones into The Clone Army Attacketh. Doescher follows Shakespearean structure, dividing the films into acts, and often heightening the drama of scenes through such reworking – although this does sometimes provide perhaps unintended humour in the matching of the profound with the prosaic. The discovery of Shmi’s body, for example, is provided with a funeral dirge, sung by Owen, followed by a vow from Anakin that emulates Hamlet – leading into him telling Padme “I shall inside to fix the speeder, aye / For as I rode the shifter did o’erheat.”

Clone_Army_Attacketh_CoverSome things need to be altered – R2-D2 sometimes is given lines, Yoda gets more of his lines straight – while others stay the same (Jar Jar Binks is as annoying in iambic pentameter as he is in any other form). Doescher’s afterwords are well worth reading for insight into the way in which he has treated the characters – and for confirming that these have been as much a labour of love as they have been hard work.

Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge is due out soon completing the set, and one has to hope that Doescher has been given a copy of The Force Awakeneth to weave his magic on. As Shakespearean homage/parody, they are fun to read; but slightly to my surprise, they also give new insights into the characters we know so well.

Verdict: A different slant on a familiar saga. 8/10

Paul Simpson


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