Just how easy is it to rewrite Star Wars into a Shakespearean play? To read the dialogue in iambic pentameter is one thing but to hear it is another. Until Disney (and George Lucas) authorizes Adam Long, one of the founding members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, to release a DVD of his stage production of Star Wars Shortened, fans will have to make do with Ian Doescher’s take of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily A New Hope. At least the performance is super fun to watch and the other an undistinguished read.
The idea of getting Luke, Obi-Wan or Vader speaking in old Elizabethan English is more of a novelty than compelling reading. Most of the dialogue is required to stay in canon within the screenplay Lucas wrote for A New Hope. When possible, Doescher makes use of a few lines better known from Shakespere’s other plays and includes them in his book. Bits of familiar dialogue from the tragedy Hamlet and the romance Romeo & Juliet will be recognized.
But not everything is borrowed to construct this reworking of A New Hope. Readers will find that this author offers pepperings of extra exposition here and there, throughout the book. Some of them work, but others do little to add to the narrative. Had the asides been keen observations of the allies and villains, then these little notes could have worked better to move the story along.
The bard himself may have issues with how Star Wars has been retold. Most of the space faring action sequences really does not work. They really need to be seen than expounded upon. The only exception is with Obi-Wan Kenobi’s final confrontation with Vader; readers can finally understand his sacrifice. Luke’s lament becomes all the more powerful. Another problem is that this author does not have the same panache that the bard has for great similes and metaphors. This book is not recommended for teachers thinking it is a good way to introduce young ones to Shakespeare.
Despite these problems, this book is great to look at for the art alone. To see them done up like a woodcut is a beautiful touch. German artist Albrecht Dürer could not be any more prouder.
Ian Doescher will be retooling the next two films. The Empire Striketh Back and The Jedi Doth Return are due out in March and July 2014 respectively. WIth the second film, he may have a respectable winner. Star Wars is good, for it establishes the monomyth that Joseph Campbell is famous for. A New Hope is about Luke’s hero’s journey, but it was hardly a character driven story. ESB was, and director Irvin Kershner did an awesome job at establishing the tensions, romance and regrets developed throughout this film. The big question will be if Doescher can recreate that magic?
With better dialogue in this film, maybe the Shakespearean treatment Verily A New Hope will not be as bad. Even the epic sword fight between Luke and Vader will be highly anticipated. Maybe an enterprising theatre group might license the rights to perform the entire trilogy on stage.
The only problem here is to realize that epic space battles really cannot be retold on stage. Had it been done with real laser guns and explosives, there would not be a platform to perform on left. Smoke and mirrors can effectively be used some staged sci-fi fights, but it simply does not work for blowing up Death Stars.
3½ Stars out of 5