William Shakespeare’s Star Wars:
The Empire Striketh Back
William Shakespeare’s Star Wars was probably my favorite book of 2013. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that. I loved that book to no end and I swear that if I were ever a teacher I’d totally use that in my classroom. Unlike Ian Doescher, I have no idea what iambic pentameter even begins to mean – I just know when things sound vaguely Shakespeare-y – but I have to imagine Star Wars would make it way more interesting to learn.
Following in the steps of Verily, A New Hope, The Empire Striketh Back returns us to a “time so long ago” in a “war-torn galaxy far, far away.” These aren’t exactly books you pick up if you aren’t familiar with the Star Wars franchise so I don’t need to go into the specifics of what the story is and how the book plays out. You already know!
But the way Doescher adapts the stories to Shakespearean stage never ceases to astound.
I was a big fan of the extended universe growing up. I loved hearing what other characters had to say about things and to see events from different perspectives. With every character given the opportunity to monologue now and again – including the Wampa and the giant space slug who tried to eat the Millennium Falcon! – you get all kinds of great little tidbits that, yeah, maybe he extrapolates from the film and takes a few liberties with but who cares?
There’s a whole conversation between AT-AT pilots in here. And Piett actually gets a nice little monologue of his own musing after the nature of man and how all tend to hide behind masks in what is but a short scene where he sees Vader replacing his in the movies. Boba Fett’s monologues kind of steal the show in the latter half of the book. He’s such a great character and without the extended universe we wouldn’t know much about him so it’s nice that he gets some lines here. Lando also gets some pretty decent moments in.
I actually really enjoyed the introduction to Lando’s character.
“System,” you exclaim?
He is not a system: Lando is a man.
Lando of Calrissian he’s known.
The man doth deal in cards, in gambling and
In scoundreling – thou wouldst his type condone.
I think it sort of just provides a great example of just how well the movie scripts are adapted.
Everything about this book is great. The Shakespearian theatre staged drawings are one of the best parts about the whole thing. I love that they actually thought up not only how the play would be written but how some of the scenes might be staged as well. I’d so totally go see William Shakespeare’s Star Wars in theaters.
And the solution to Yoda’s speech!
When you read the afterword section at the end of the book – where Doescher gives you some creative insight on how he was able to put together the book – he admitted that Yoda’s speech is already sort of Shakespearian in a way. If he left it the way it was then he’d just sound like anyone else. So he happened on a rather ingenious solution. He needed another literary sort of style that was unique and yet obvious.
Haiku! Yoda speaks in a 5-7-5 sequence every time he has a line. One of these lines may be an aside to the audience or something like that but every time he pops up be has three lines that follow that sort of modern interpretation of haiku. I though it was brilliant and he does it so well you might not quite notice at first. (Except for the awkward spaces between the haikus.)
I’m so sad that we’re almost through the original trilogy. The Jedi Doth Return comes out this summer so unless Doescher writes the prequels (and possibly the sequels!) in Shakespearian prose we may be coming to the end of our literary journey and that is super sad. But we’ve still got one more to go!
Final Thoughts: Like the first book in the series, I cannot recommend the Empire Striketh Back enough. It’s such a fantastic book and it’s such a unique way to experience a story we all know so well. Plus the cover art is fantastic and it matches the first in the series so you know you have to have it. And then, you know, you have to get the third one, too. Matching sets and all. Anyway, definitely go out and get this regardless. If nothing else it’s the perfect gift for that special Star Wars nerd in your life.