Holy shit. This is one of the nerdiest books I’ve ever read. It is glorious.
I was initially wary of yet another book that seemingly capitalized on mish-mashing two beloved cultural entities together (see: the shitstorm surrounding the release of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies), but a good review by someone I trust convinced me to give this a shot. So glad I did. Shakespeare and Star Wars, it turns out, go absurdly well together. Like cheese and crackers, cookies and milk, pizza and beer — the two things taste great on their own, but put them together and it’s just so right.
And this isn’t just some casual mish-mash, either. Ian Doescher — who is, I assume, a MASSIVE NERD and I want to best friends with him immediately — relates the full film script entirely in blank verse, iambic pentameter and all. For fuck’s sake, each of R2-D2’s beeps and boops even conform (I counted random lines at random intervals just to check, and they were all correct), with stresses perfectly on each iamb, messing with ellision and word order in the process, just like Shakespeare did. And he doesn’t just play it straight with the script, either. He takes full advantage of his new form, aping the conventions and techniques of renaissance drama with so much attitude that I couldn’t help but burst into giggles over the sheer absurdity of it all.
I mean it, he has characters do asides all the time, his soliloquies are ridiculous and actually help to build character (Darth Vader’s is my favorite). He alludes to famous Shakespearen lines from all over the canon, but twists them to suit his purpose. He uses a Chorus to make up for the lack of visual stimuli (which is really interesting to me as someone who studied Shakespeare — my academic brain (which is waking sleepily) kept asking questions like, isn’t it interesting to consider that Shakespeare’s plays were designed to be performed, not read, so that definitely affects the way we read it today, and alternatively, Doescher’s book was designed first and foremost as a book, so it would be really interesting to see how a director would ‘adapt’ it for the stage, and I will stop now because you’re all bored). He isn’t up to par with Shakespeare in terms of language. His phrasing fell a bit flat at times (and often read as too modern), and his imagery and use of metaphorical conceits isn’t anywhere near Shakespeare’s genius use of it, but dammit he tried. And I did notice that his imagery and control over the langage did improve, both as the book went on, and in certain situations (like when characters are being sassy with each other — this book has terminal amounts of sass).
Perhaps my favorite part about this book is its attention to detail. Like Shakespeare, you can’t rush through or you’ll miss things. Clever turns of phrase, innuendo, small jokes here and there. Probably my favorite example of this is the two and a half page conversation (which waxes very philosophical) between two Stormtrooper friends who are set to guard the Millennium Falcon aboard the Death Star. We spend just enough time with them for it to be fucking hilarious when the scene ends very abrubtly with Luke and Han shooting them both dead and stealing their uniforms.
There aren’t many quotes online from this yet, and I already had to return my copy to the library or I’d add them myself, so I’ll have to make do with some examples that are on Goodreads, so you can get a feel for this shit. Here’s Luke contemplating the Stormtrooper helmet of the man he’s just killed, in the style of Hamlet and the skull:
“[Luke, holding stormtrooper helmet.]
Alas, poor stormtrooper, I knew ye not,
yet have I taken both uniform and life
From thee. What manner of a man wert thou?
A man of inf’nite jest or cruelty?
A man with helpmate and with children too?
A man who hath his Empire serv’d with pride?
A man, perhaps, who wish’d for perfect peace?
What’er thou wert, goodman, thy pardon grant
Unto the one who took thy place: e’en me.”
Here’s Doescher’s answer to the whole Han shot first business:
“HAN: I pray thee, sir, forgive me for the mess/And whether I shot first, I’ll not confess.”
And here’s Doescher really having fun, playing on the line from the film (“Whose the more foolish: the fool, or the fool who follows him?”) and engaging in some signature Shakespearean wordplay:
“OBI-WAN: Aye, say thou fool? Then fool, good Sir, am I.
But when thou sayest fool remember well
That fools do walk in foolish company.
So if I am a fool, perhaps ’tis true
That other fools around me may be found.
For who is he who hath more foolish been—
The fool or other fool who follows him?”
Anyway, this was super fun, and the sequel came out yesterday, and it’s totally waiting for me at the library right now. This time I will make sure to write down my favorite bits for your future pleasure.