Sitzbook Review: “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars” by Ian Doescher

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I read a lot of books last year (52, to be exact, which is the whole point), but three of the best ones, or at least three of the ones I enjoyed the most, were the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series. Basically, Ian Doescher took the original Star Wars trilogy and re-wrote them as Shakespeare plays, iambic pentameter and all. It’s a very impressive feat, and the best part is it combines the two perfectly.

The books are highly entertaining for a Star Wars and literature nerd like me, and I couldn’t help but typing out longer passages that I liked. Feel free to read them here, but if you think they’re too long, I wouldn’t blame you–and they’re better if you read the books yourself anyhow. But at least here you can get a sense of what these books are like.

I chose to mostly use quotes from Return of the Jedi–sorry, The Jedi Doth Return–because by that point, the writing had really hit its stride, and there were some parts that were almost inside jokes. But Verily, A New Hope and The Empire Striketh Back were also great, and the final quote is from the latter.  

First let’s go to page 58 of Jedi, with Obi-Wan talking to Luke about Vader, while also making a nice, subtle dig at the prequels:

OBI-WAN
[aside:] I never did imagine that, in death
I would be call’d upon to justify
The words I spoke in life. ‘Twas well I spoke
Not of the midi-chlorians to Luke,
For then he would have endless questions still.

One element that is funny about the Star Wars movies, especially in the newest one, is to see how the guards and stormtroopers act. This book expands their role and dialogues, allowing them to comment on strange situations. Here’s one from page 113, where two guards speculate on a potentially upcoming battle for Endor:

GUARD 1
Perhaps, yet follow on: it seems that there
Are rebels on the forest moon, who now
Have hidden, and we know not where. What if
These rebels were to meet the creatures, band
Together, crush the bunker that controls
The shield that watcheth o’er the Death Star, then
Coordinate a wing’d assault, which would
Destroy this battle station and–still more–
Deliver our dread Emperor and Lord
Darth Vader unto their untimely deaths?
Could not such a chain of dire events
Defeat the Empire strong in one fell swoop?

GUARD 2
Thou shouldst not be a guard, my friend, for thou
Art suited for a life of fantasy.
Thou shouldst a writer be of stories grand
Wherein a group of men and simple beasts
Do overthrow an Empire powerful.
O, it doth break upon my sight: my friend,
The ancient storyteller he, who weaves
His tales to bring delight to all who hear.

GUARD 1
Thou mockest me.

GUARD 2
–Well notic’d! Mark me now:
Thy fears all rest upon a tiny word,
A word so small it should not give thee cause
To fret and worry so: that word is “if.”
“If” there were rebels on the forest moon,
“If” they did meet with creatures and form pacts,
“If” then they could our bunker strong destroy,
“If” they had plann’d to strike our Death Star great.
Thine “if” itself the Empire overthrows,
But “if” knows little of reality.
I tell thee true, if I had richer been
If I had been a politician’s son,
If I were rais’d in wealth and privilege,
If I myself became most powerful,
Why then, I would be Emperor, not guard!
But for the “ifs.”

GUARD 1
–Thy point is made, and I
Shall rest my “ifs” and be at ease. Now, if
Thou shalt come with me, we have both been call’d
To rearrange the chairs upon the deck.

Finally, here’s one from The Empire Striketh Back on page 125, when two guards are commenting on the infrastructure of Cloud City. This one’s especially poignant after having seen The Force Awakens:

GUARD 2
That they unto the code this city built
Is not the thing that I found strange. Instead,
It was the code’s requirements I did mark.
For didst thou know the Empire doth require
That any major structure shall include
At least one chasm that’s deep and long and dark?
Not only shall these chasms exist: the code
Doth further specify that they shall be
Abutting pathways where pedestrians
May walk. The Death Star that was built some years
Ago had, evidently, sev’ral of
These holes, and our Cloud City has them, too.
Is this not strange?

GUARD 1
–I know them well, and did
Go walking past just such a gaping hole
That led to nothingness but yesterday.
But wherefore dost thou say ’tis strange, I pray?

GUARD 2
It simply maketh little sense to put
Such vast, deep holes in ev’ry structure next
To well-worn paths. Could not a person, by
Some simple misstep, fall most easily
Down one of these great chasms? So wherefore place
Such hazards into ev’ry structure built?

GUARD 1
I see your reasoning, but shall rebut:
The Empire is the greatest strength e’er known,
‘Tis true?

GUARD 2
–Of course. I’d not say otherwise.

GUARD 1
And any great thing–person, beast, or realm–
Doth put its greatness on display, agreed?

GUARD 2
‘Tis natural, I’ll warrant. Pray, say on.

GUARD 1
I posit that the Empire doth command
That structures have these chasms immense because
It is through their immensity that our
Great Empire’s strength is shown. And since they are
Vast holes that deadly are, should one fall in,
They send a message strong and clear to all:
The Empire is a proud and mighty pow’r
And doth not fear sure death, but laughs at it.
I’ faith, we are so full of life that we
Walk by our certain passing daily–it
Is but quotidian for us–and yet
We have no fear.

GUARD 2
–Thy point is clearly made.
But still, I think it strange that this is true:
A structure is not whole till it hath holes.
Such things lie far beyond my understanding,
Yet do I trust there is a master plan.

GUARD 1
Shall we to supper, friend?

GUARD 2
–Forsooth, lead on!

Well, that’s about all I had to say about these three books, other than that if you like Star Wars and you like Shakespeare, then you should obviously check these books out.

Thanks for reading!

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2 thoughts on “Sitzbook Review: “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars” by Ian Doescher

  1. This is completely awesome! How have I never heard of these books? To-read list update in progress…

    Enjoyed your Gladwell review, too. The Outliers has been on my list for a long time. So far I’ve only read one of his (The Tipping Point) but was surprised how much I enjoyed it.

    • Hi Annie,

      Thanks for the comment! You should definitely check out this series (and probably avoid the prequels, which I think they’re working on now). It was a really cool, unique idea that I wish I’d thought of.

      Ryan

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