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William Shakespeare's Star Wars
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VINE VOICEon June 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is just a brilliant adaptation of Star Wars into the style of Shakespeare. Those two things are so different that my first reaction was "This is some kind of joke, right?" But while there's a great deal of humor to be found here, the project is not a parody. Not at all. It's a celebration of two hitherto separate but equally great triumphs of storytelling.

The first step was converting the dialogue of A New Hope into iambic pentameter. This is a great accomplishment in its own right: archaic sixteenth-century grammar and vocabulary are used, giving this writing a very authentically Shakespearean feel; at the same time, Star Wars jargon is faithfully represented: "Now lock thine S foils in attacking mode," for instance, or "E'en now the princess is on Level 5/Detention block of AA-23." Deliberately awkward dialogue from Star Wars is dialed up to eleven, with side-splittingly entertaining results; read the reinterpretation of Han's attempts to convince security that everything is fine in the detention block after his fire fight with the guards there. Unintentionally awkward dialogue, of which Lucas wrote a fair amount, is smoothed over and expanded upon to the point of eloquence; see Wedge's "Look at the size of that thing!" and Red Leader's response of "Cut the chatter." R2-D2's beeps and whistles and untranslated gibberish from alien characters are sometimes used as needed to get a tricky line into blank verse, which didn't bother me any. While contractions like "Millen'um Falcon" and "th'Imper'al Senate" look awful on paper, calling to mind some cotton-mouthed Mississippi redneck, there really is no way around it, given the nature of iambic pentameter.

At any rate, the conversion to blank verse is just the beginning. The dialogue is just so rich. It makes good use of Shakespearean cribs, great and small: During the briefing where the Rebels lay out their plan of attack on the Death Star, Luke gives a paraphrase of Henry V's band of brothers monologue, which includes reference to having hunted wompa rats which are not much more than two meters. One-liners are also in abundance: During the Falcon's desperate flight from Tatooine past a star destroyer, we hear "What light from yonder flashing sensor breaks?/It marks the loss of yon deflector shield." There are also inside jokes for Star Wars lovers; my favorite was Han's rhyming couplet after his confrontation with Greedo: "I pray thee, sir, forgive me for the mess/And whether I shot first, I'll not confess." As for the stormtrooper who, while searching for R2-D2 and C-3P0, ordered his mates "This door's locked, move on to the next one," his one line is transformed into an absurdly grandiose explanation of how his father told him he could be absolutely certain that nothing of interest would ever be found behind a locked door, and he's made that a guiding principle of his life ever since.

More seriously, the use of Shakespearean conventions adds so much texture to this version of the story. Liberal use of asides which create original dialogue not based on anything from Lucas's text give characterization to characters whose motives are a bit obscure in A New Hope: Obi-Wan alludes to the events of Revenge of the Sith and explains why he is concealing most of the truth from Luke at this point. He also indicates that he anticipates and is prepared to accept his fate. Darth Vader, meanwhile, uses his asides to acknowledge the bitterness and resentment which cuts so deep to his core and continues to corrupt Anakin Skywalker (without ever acknowledging that he is Anakin, of course). The combination of these two side-characterizations gives the duel between Vader and Obi-Wan the sense of being a climactic showdown many years in the making that it deserves. (In A New Hope proper, I've always thought it felt terribly anti-climactic, even more so after seeing the circumstances under which the two men had previously parted ways.) Han Solo uses his frequent asides to paint himself as a man who feels drawn to a nobler existence than his life of ruthless self-interest has provided, but who cannot heed that internal calling because of the burden of his debt to Jabba the Hutt. In the culmination of this journey he walks us through his decision to join the attack on the Death Star and save Luke from Vader's TIE fighter, rather than just showing up out of nowhere as he does in the movie.

R2-D2 also gets plenty of asides, and they are intelligible; in the first of these he explains to the audience that he only beeps and whistles where other characters can hear him because he's decided to play the fool so no one will suspect he knows more about the situation than he's letting on. This is a stroke of genius; I'm certain that that is exactly what Shakespeare would have done with the character. Subsequent asides are used to provide exposition to the audience.

Asides also give development to characters who are just nameless extras in the movie, mostly stormtroopers reflecting on their station before getting shot. And of course the asides provide humor: After being interrupted by C-3P0, Obi-wan asks in annoyance "Why speaks't he here when 'tis my time to speak?/These droids of protocol are e'er uncouth/Of etiquette they know but little, troth!"

One small complaint I have about the asides is that the word "aside" is often misused in the text, identifying as an aside a line that is directed at another character, or being absent from a line that should be described as such. Hopefully that's one of those typos that crops up in an uncorrected proof and will be caught before the finished product goes to print.

Another smart innovation is the use of a chorus to advance the action. They recite the famous trapezoidal crawl of text at the beginning of the movie--recast as a sonnet--then crop up throughout the book to provide linking narration between scenes or within a scene via rhyming quatrains. Mostly they're describing or summarizing scenes which in the movie were shown entirely by visual effects, effects which could not possibly be duplicated in a stage production. They really come into their own during the climactic Rebel attack on the Death Star, explaining what's going on while the various characters supply dialogue. In the Globe Theater this is how it would have to be done; it would not be practical to have the pilots give elaborate descriptions of what they're supposed to be seeing. (By the way, the chorus opens that scene with an appeal to the audience to use their imaginations to picture what's described rather than to insist on having everything presented as sensory stimuli. I couldn't help wondering if this was a gentle mockery of the special effects saturation of the prequel trilogy and recent rereleases of the original trilogy.) Not many Shakespearean plays include a chorus, but it's necessary here and really is the best way to reconcile elements of a story written for a visual medium with the new literary medium in which it's being recast.

One final feature which makes this book even more enjoyable is the illustrations. They're no masterpieces, to be sure, but there's a real level of enjoyment to see familiar characters represented via sixteenth century drawing methods, including some very stylized costumes which give recognizably science fiction outfits an Elizabethan flair.

All in all, what sounds like an amusing gag gift when you read the product description turns out to be a very sophisticated merging of two great storytelling styles. I do hope that this is not a one-time thing; I hope it's a great success that inspires the adaptation of the other Star Wars films in the same style, and similar projects for Doctor Who or Harry Potter or whatever. It's intelligent, it's enjoyable on countless levels, and its brilliance cannot be overstated.
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on March 21, 2014
When I first saw “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Verily a New Hope” by Ian Doescher I was a little skeptical of a book that took the story of “Star wars: A New Hope” in the style of “The Bard of Avon”. However, my curiosity get the better of me, and as a die-hard Star Wars fan, I could not resist, and in all honesty was pleasantly surprised. Within the first few pages, I was pleasantly amused at how well the text of the script was transformed. Unlike other reviewers here who grew tired of the Shakespearean style of dialog and writing, I was rather fond of its unique charm throughout my reading of the book. I was also surprised at the amount of dialog given in the form of asides to a very particular character that in the original story, had no dialog whatsoever. It is asides like these, along with the asides of other characters given throughout the story, that gave quite a bit of insight to what the characters are feeling and thinking, that were never part of the original story. In closing, I am very satisfied with this book and its conversion from a modern style of writing into that of a Shakespearean format.
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on February 3, 2017
This book is hilarious. It's really funny to read the Star Wars script in the style of William Shakespeare. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants a good chuckle and is a fan of Star Wars.
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on September 11, 2013
What can a true geek say about this except, well done! Hats off to Mr. Doescher for staying true to Star Wars, throwing in various Shakespeare plays, and keeping it all in iambic pentameter. I smiled and giggled throughout the play, from "What light through yonder flashing censor breaks", "Alas, poor stormtrooper, I knew ye not", "Friends, rebels, starfighters, lend me your ears", right to R2D2's beeps. squeaks, and meeps (also in iambic pentameter)to his asides where he blasts everyone's stupidity. Needless to say, I love this play! Ten stars and ten thumbs up!
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on June 13, 2017
It's impressive to hear the Star Wars original trilogy adapted into Shakespearean language. It is by turns thoughtful and amusing. The actors voicing the characters took care to imitate the movie actors, mostly with success. The adaptation isn't condensed at all from the original movies and there is additional material in the form of character soliloquies. Some of the speeches contain nods to Shakespearean passages, which added to my enjoyment.
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on January 25, 2016
I had read the two following books and I was prepared for this one. They were recommended by a teenage who was a fan of the show and these Dr. Doescher stories. I had read the three novels of the original movies by Allen Dean Foster years ago. This was a new take on the movies with the Shakespearian language and this made it a new and interesting read. It did follow the plot and gave some personality to the Storm Troppers. It also made me want to read some of the plays by Shakespeare. It put poetry into what was a cowboy story set in space. It was a very enjoyable reading experience. All three were great to read. Of course, I have seen the three original movies several times.
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on July 13, 2014
Cool concept that holds up thru the length of the book....if you're a fan of Star Wars a good read (certainly better than the original movie novelization paperback). If you're a Shakespeare fan who doesn't take things too seriously it is worth the novelty.

If you find mashups like "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" insulting, well maybe you should pass on this too.
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on March 26, 2014
This week I have read some fun books. The first of these is William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher. Doescher has taken the script for George Lucas’s Star Wars movie and translated it into Shakespearean English, complete with the Bard’s iconic iambic pentameter.

In short, this is the most brilliant piece of writing I have read in a long time. I am a big fan of the original trilogy Star Wars movies and it’s just incredible how well they work in Shakespearean language. Doescher studied Shakespeare and is also a big sci-fi geek and his understanding of both media comes across very well. The dichotomy of the sci-fi content in old fashioned language adds a real interest to the writing. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun to play “spot the (adapted) Shakespeare quotation.” For example, we have “Alas, poor stormtrooper, I knew ye not” referencing Hamlet’s thoughts on Yorrick.

I have both the audiobook (narrated by a troupe of Shakespearean actors including the author himself) and I strongly recommend experiencing William Shakespeare’s Star Wars in audiobook format rather than the written word. The cast really brings it to life.
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on March 10, 2014
Doescher's re-interpretation of the sci-fi classic retains the plot--and indeed much of the dialogue--of the re-released A New Hope fairly accurately. His ability to render George Lucas's casual dialogue into iambic pentameter is impressive, and it can be highly amusing to hear the rough Han speak in Elizabeth English (his conversation with the intercom in the cell block is even more hilarious than the original). The work's chief weakness is that often it seems repetitive, re-hashing conversations and plot points from the original movie without much variation, or shoe-horning various famous Shakespearean quotes into unrelated scenes. When Doescher does alter or add to the narrative, it is often highly amusing and rewarding (Stormtroopers who comment on the inanity of their own behavior, occasional soliluqies highlighting well-known plot holes). One just wishes he had done it a bit more.

On the whole, though, the work is well-crafted and humorous, with engaging illustrations and witty commentary, and is a useful tool to acquaint students with the language of Shakespeare.
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on June 24, 2017
This was a totally fun read from beginning to end. Combine the iambic pentameter of Shakespearean language, old English idioms, and the cinematic brilliance of George Lucas, and you have a wonderful reading experience. Loved it!
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