Sunday, March 16

Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher

In accordance with the FTC, Quill Café would like to disclose that the reviewer received a review copy of this title from the publisher. The opinions expressed are hers alone and no monetary compensation was offered to her by the author or publisher. Cover art is copyright of Quirk Books and is used solely as an aide to the review.

Long ago, in galaxy far far away, the scene is set amidst the stars, and the players - Droids, Jedi, and Stormtroopers vile - are at odds.

In a new series of plays written in the style of William Shakespeare, Ian Doescher brings a new spin to the well-known Star Wars saga, where the characters give lengthy soliloquies and even the roughest characters are fair spoken.

'Verily, A New Hope' sets the stage for readers to enjoy the world of Lucas and the language of the Bard in a whole new way.

It was my ninth year when my introduction - nay, infatuation - to Star Wars began. I've never quite held the same adoration for Shakespeare's plays, yet when I learnt of this title I knew I must read it.

From the start, the world of Star Wars is wrapped in iambic pentameter and rhyming couplets. It is a style meant to be read aloud, and it is particularly wonderful to do so with another, taking turns and casting roles as you read.

It is clear that Doescher not only has an incredible familiarity with the world of Star Wars and the script, but also an immense understanding of Shakespeare's language and techniques. It is not a simple thing to take something and transform it into an entirely different vocabulary, while still maintaining its meaning. The execution is phenomenal.

'Verily, A New Hope' not only contains the wording, rhythmic patterns and rhymes that a Shakespearean play would, but it also uses the same elements, from the Chorus who sets the scene and narrates in intervals throughout, to lengthy soliloquies by the cast of characters.

The soliloquies give insight into the minds of the characters that you don't get in the film. They give voice to subtext and foreshadowing, showing Obi Wan's self justification for his manipulation, and Vader's woe in the midst of politicians.

The most significant of all is R2-D2, who beeps and squeaks to other characters, but addresses the audience in tongue. Through Shakespeare's language, Doescher reveals that R2-D2 has always been the Bard's iconic Fool, using his wits and cheek to guide the hero.

Doescher is also very clever with his insults. Shakespeare was a master with slights, and in 'Verily, A New Hope' Doesher brings his own Star Wars flair, particularly at the metal lips of C-3PO. "Thou rubbish bucket fit for scrap, thou blue and silver pile of bantha dung!"

There are many recognisable lines inspired straight from Shakespeare's works. "The day when Jabba taketh my dear ship shall be the day you find me a grave man." Doescher also makes Star Wars references which fall outside the script, such as "Who shot first?" which enriches the experience for avid fans.

The playscript is also accompanied by stunning illustrations by Nicolas Delort. He captures the scenes and characters splendidly, adding the occasional Shakespearean ruffle and flair. My favourites are the conversation between Han and Jabba, Luke's soliloquy to the Stormtrooper helmet, and Vader face palming in front of the Death Star.

It came to mind that reading 'Verily, A New Hope' would be a very clever way to study Shakespeare's language, so I was happily surprised to find that Quirk includes an online educator's guide. It elaborates on Shakespeare's style, how certain techniques are applied to 'Verily, A New Hope,' and the parallels between Doescher's text and Shakespeare's work.

I would love to see a full production of 'Verily, A New Hope' performed onstage. Many factors and sequences would require some innovation, and I am curious as to how they would be accomplished.

I highly recommend 'Verily, A New Hope' to fans of both Shakespeare and Star Wars. It is an enriching and enjoyable experience. The series continues with 'The Empire Striketh Back.'

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