Ian Doescher has no outsized views of his first book, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. “At first glance, the title seems absurd,” the Portlander writes in the afterword. A lover of either the Bard or the Force could be forgiven for thinking, “Seems so on second glance, too.” But give Doescher a shot to prove his thesis that George Lucas’ series is the offspring of Shakespeare, and he’ll do it.
Plus, it’s just fun.
Vader: For certain, I have waited, Obi-Wan,
And now at last we meet together here:
Our destinies once and for all fulfill’d.
The circle of our lives is now complete—
A student was I when I left thee last,
But now I am the Master over thee.
Obi-Wan: Thou art Master, Darth, I know ‘tis true,
But only evil hast thou Master’d yet.
The idea for the book came from a pair of mash-ups, the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the play The Very Merry Wives of Windsor, Iowa. After seeing that play at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, he concocted the idea for the book. Tapping into the work of Shakespeare and writing in iambic pentameter were the easy parts of this. Doescher has been a Shakespeare aficionado for decades.
What was hard was nailing the Star Wars side of the mash-up. Doescher isn’t — or at least wasn’t before the project — a Star Wars buff. He’s seen the movies many, many times and knows the speeches and scenes, some by heart. But all that proves is he’s an American who grew up in the 1980s. Relying on Wookieepedia (106,325 articles and counting) and with the blessing of Lucas Films, he dove into the ever-deepening well of the Star Wars canon.
It’s not a simple line for line translation into Shakespearean style. Lucas Films, to Doescher’s delight, told him to have fun with the text. He gives Luke a Hamlet-and-Yorick’s-skull speech with a Stormtrooper helmet; R2D2 speaks in beeps and meeps to other characters but in English in asides; and Han Solo, after killing Greedo the bounty hunter, says, “And whether I shot first, I’ll ne’er confess.” That, and nearly only that, Doescher says riled up the fans — they still want closure on that greatest of Star Wars mysteries.
What other works of pop culture could benefit from a Shakespearean overhaul?