Star Wars and Shakespeare are two subjects I’m quite keen on. The be honest, I would imagine most people who are crazy about one are very likely to be crazy about the other. As the author notes in his Afterword, the two are linked. Whether or not the two should be tossed together like a portmanteau is a matter of opinion, but the result was enjoyable enough.
I think I read through this one in the same way any Star Wars nerd would read through it: excitedly waiting for my favorite moments in anticipation of how Doescher would transform them with a Shakespearian treatment. And when it worked, it was laugh out loud funny. My favorite moment had to come when Leia’s classic quip of “Aren’t you a little short for a storm trooper?” was transformed to:
“Thou truly art in jest. Art thou not small
Of stature, if thou art a stormtrooper?
Does Empire shrink for want of taller troops?
The Empire’s evil ways, I’ll grant, are grand,
But must its soldiers want for fear of height?”
There are more than a handful of terrific gems like that here.
My difficulty with “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars” came from the constant nudges to the reader. I’m aware of the fact that the very *existence* of a book with this title implies that there will be a few winks to the audience here and there, but by the time Luke is contemplating a downed storm trooper’s helmet in parody of Hamlet’s “To Be Or Not To Be” speech, I was shouting “For god’s sake, I GET IT”. These not-so-subtle allusions start with C3PO aping Richard III, and continue with Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, and Julius Caesar. Hell, Doescher even throws in a reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”. The nerdisms, like Han’s confession that “…whether I shot first, I’ll ne’er confess!” go the same route: It’s a cute idea, but the execution is a little hamfisted.
Doescher does a good job with the meter, which would have been a flaw I was prepared to forgive. However, his constant use of the Chorus (which isn’t really something Shakespeare was known for) and his liberal application of asides to the audience feel like unnecessary padding. There are, however, exceptions to this rule, such as Obi-Wan’s touching monologue before being cut down by Vader.
All in all, I had a fun time with this book. I expect that Ian Doescher will continue the trilogy, and can only hope that he’ll learn from one of the men that inspired this book: “Brevity is the soul of wit.”