What Light in Yonder Saber Breaks? William Shakespeare’s Star Wars

Shakespeare Star Wars coversLooking for a change of pace for an upcoming book group meeting? I’m a big advocate of playing with the formula at least once a year and trying something unusual. The contrast helps to keep the standard meeting format fresh. One of my favorite variations is to read something aloud. There’s a great deal of fine literature, particularly poetry and plays, that comes to life when one hears the words spoken, and it can be great fun for your group members to channel their inner ham.

To that end, Ian Doescher’s recent adaptations of the first three Star Wars films, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope; William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back; and this month’s William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return provide a great opportunity. Split up the parts and start reading! Almost everyone is familiar with these films, and Doescher’s adaptations are very clever, a cut far above the usual mashup, illuminating both the storytelling of the films (not a scene is left out) and the linguistic power of Shakespeare. The books include black and white, Elizabethan style illustrations of the familiar Star Wars characters and fine iambic pentameter throughout. Doescher adds a chorus to help fill gaps in the narrative (and to perform the famous screen scrolls). Even R2D2 and Chewbacca begin with appropriate iambic beeps and groans, but later open the fourth wall with funny asides about their devious manipulations of the other characters.Hamlet Skywalker

Doescher inserts a liberal dose of lines close to those found in other Shakespeare, so when C-3PO spouts Now is the summer of our happiness/Made winter by this sudden fierce, attack! or Han Solo vows The day when Jabba taketh my fair ship/Shall be the day you find me a grave man,your more astute readers can enjoy a game of name that play and identify the original reference.

If the Coen Brothers are more your thing than Star Wars, try Adam Bertocci’s Two Gentlemen of Lebowski instead, but just as zombies overran all matter of classics a few years ago, these Shakespearean mashups may follow suit. As with that earlier trend, the first examples (like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) are likely to prove more successful. My recommendation is to jump in now, grin and bard it with your book group, before the proverbial horse is flogg’d to the death.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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