Verily, A New Hope
By Ian Doescher
Illustrations by Nicolas Delort
Available now from Quirk Books (with permission from Lucas Books)
Ian Doescher had a great idea. I can't imagine how many people wish they had it first. Star Wars, that nerdy yet mainstream cultural touchstone, uses classic structure to tell of space battles. Why not push it even farther?
(If they can do it with Pulp Fiction . . . )
Ian Doescher does a great job of telling Star Wars in the style of William Shakespeare. He has the benefit of having seen all the movies to add a bit more weight to lines that foreshadow what's to come. (He also gets to references fan fervor over whether Han shot first.) He alludes to a large number of Shakespeare's most famous lines, including both my favorite lines from Macbeth and Julius Caesar. He also matched the characters well to Shakespearean counterparts. I particularly loved R2-D2 as a Shakespearean fool, tricking the pretentious C-3PO. The pastiche continues to the very end, when a parody of Prospero's 'Our revels are now ended' (The Tempest) directs readers to extras on the Quirk Books' website.
The greatest weakness is Doescher's reliance on a Chorus. Yes, it's a theatrical technique, but not one Shakespeare much used. I can understand Doescher wanting to reference the movie's famous visuals, but it seems like some of the lines could have been folded into the dialogue. I think Doescher didn't want to stray too far from the original script, although he does give many characters speeches that reveal more of their internal turmoil. (That being a good theatrical change, of course.)
I wish I could see WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S STAR WARS performed, instead of just reading it. It is a stage play, after all, and performance always gives the words new life. There are, fortunately, twenty scratchboard illustrations by the fantastic Nicolas Delort in the book. They're appropriately old fashioned and manage to reference famous iconography from both sources. I particularly liked the way he drew Chewbacca.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S STAR WARS is a good pick for Star Wars fans. It's a novelty, sure, but one that is done with great style. I can also see English teachers picking it up for use in the classroom. It's not only a good introduction to iambic pentameter, but also a way to teach the meaning of pastiche.