“William Shakespeare’s Star Wars” by Ian Doescher

William Shakespeare's Star Wars

“Alas, poor stormtrooper, I knew ye not.
Yet have I ta’en both uniform and life
from thee. What manner of a man wert thou?
A man of inf’nite jest or cruelty?”

 This is one of my favorite scenes and illustrations from “Willliam Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope” (2013) by Ian Doescher, in which Luke Skywalker holds up a stormtrooper helmet and reflects on the death of an enemy soldier. It reveals Luke’s regret and sorrow at some of the violent things he has had to do to fight for freedom, which is glossed over in the movie.

Inspired by the work of George Lucas and William Shakespeare, “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope” is a retelling of the movie “Star Wars: A New Hope” in five acts, in iambic pentameter, with line art illustrations by Nicholas Delort. It’s clever, fun, and fantastical, blending Star Wars’ action and drama with an appreciation for poetry and humor.

Fans of Star Wars and Shakespeare will find this epic poem witty, amusing, and philosophical. I was amazed by how neatly the narrative fit into a five-act play. I loved the additional of a chorus to set the scene and create foreshadowing. I enjoyed the fact that R2-D2 finally gets a voice – he is sarcastic, ambitious, and somewhat egotistical: “I clearly see how I shall play my part/And how a vast rebellion shall succeed/By wit and wisdom of a simple droid.”

For Star Wars fans who may be dubious about poetry, here are highlights from each act, which I think sum up the characters neatly:

Act 1. Darth Vader to Leia Organa: “Thine innocent appearance doth disguise/A heart with revolution at its core.” (Of course, there is also the iconic plea, which sets Luke on his quest but doesn’t reflect Leia’s steely strength: “O help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, help./Thou art mine only hope.”)

Act 2. Obi-Wan Kenobi: “My hope I now entrust to him alone/That he might be our sure deliverance.”

Act 3. Han Solo: “I would be better than it seems I am/If ever I transcend the man I was.”

Act 4. Darth Vader to Obi-Wan Kenobi: “The circle of our lives is now complete/A student was I when I left thee last/But now I am the Master over thee.”

Act 5. Luke Skywalker: “Our cause is for the truth, for righteousness/For anyone who e’er oppression knew.”

Read the words aloud. Savor the rhythm and cadence of the words. Listen to Darth Vader’s deep voice, Han Solo’s wry depreciation, Luke Skywalker’s earnestness. I hope this will tempt you to read more.

Can you recite lines from the Star Wars movies? Do you argue about characters and events, or debate the merits of the movies vs. the novels? Do you play with Star Wars action figures or have a realistic lightsaber? May you enjoy Star Wars fandom, my reader.

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