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Book review: Star Wars mashup with William Shakespeare a blast(er) of a read (+video)

Published: Saturday, July 20 2013 3:05 p.m. MDT

"WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S STAR WARS: Verily, A New Hope," by Ian Doescher, Quirk Books, $14.95, 176 pages (f)

In William Shakespeare's "Julius Ceasar," Cassius reminds Brutus, "It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves." He might have been talking about the callow "Star Wars" hero, Luke Skywalker.

In fact, imagine these same words inserted into the scene where Luke first meets Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, iambic pentameter and all, and you have first-time author Ian Doescher's brilliant mashup, "William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope."

Published by Quirk Books (which is also behind "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters," "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and "Android Karenina"), "Verily, A New Hope" cements the publisher's status as masters of the mashup.

Doescher is clearly a fan of both Lucas and Shakespeare. Fans of the "Star Wars" movies will likely find themselves smiling as they read how the author answers the ever-present question, "I wonder how he'll do that scene?" with the joy of a fanboy. He deftly navigates the space between tongue and cheek, one minute worshipping the seminal sci-fi film with surprisingly sensitive and even touching prose, and the next poking fun at Lucas' stiff characters and turgid dialogue. Actually, Doescher brings out depth and detail in the "Star Wars" characthers by reimagining them as Shakespeare might have created them.

One scene in particular articulates this. In Act I Scene 2, the mute android R2-D2 breaks away from his beeps and boops to eloquently state his true nature in an aside:

This golden droid has been a friend, 'tis true,

And yet I wish to still his prating tongue!

An imp, he calleth me? I'll be reveng'd,

And merry pranks aplenty I shall play

Upon this pompous droid C-3PO!

Yet not in language shall my pranks be done:

Around both humans and the droids I must

Be seen to make such errant beeps and squeaks

That they shall think me simple. Truly, though,

Although with sounds oblique I speak to them,

I clearly see how I shall play my part,

And how a vast rebellion shall succeed

By wit and wisdom of a simple droid.

The fact is, "Star Wars" creator George Lucas studied Shakespeare before writing "Star Wars" — sort of. As the story goes, Lucas read Joseph Campbell's "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" as he was writing his first draft of "Star Wars."

Campbell often noted of his seminal work that he drew heavily from Shakespeare to identify the key elements that make great stories great.

"In reading 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces,' " Lucas told Campbell's biographers, "I began to realize that my first draft of 'Star Wars' was following classic motifs. ... So I modified my next draft according to what I'd been learning about classical motifs and made it a little bit more consistent."

Doescher simply took the next logical step in converting "Star Wars" to prose and, as Obi-Wan might say, "The circle is now complete!"

Let's only hope "Verily, A New Hope" isn't our only hope and that Doescher will "play on" with his mashups through the entire library of "Star Wars" films.

Click here for an excerpt fo "William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily a New Hope."

'William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope'

A quick peek at "William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope" by Ian Doescher.

Chris Higbee is general manager of DeseretNews.com.

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