Guest Post: Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily a New Hope

Cover for Ian Doescher's Shakepeare's Star Wars: Verily a New Hope
Cover for Ian Doescher’s Shakepeare’s Star Wars: Verily a New Hope

By Ian Doescher

ISBN 978-1-59474-637-6

**Shay will be on holidays for the month of July. Guest posts brought to you by Amelia. **

“OBI-WAN:      – True it is,

That these are not the droids for which thou seach’st.

TROOPER:  Aye, these are not the droids for which we search.”

Though, unsurprisingly, this isn’t a text actually written by the Bard himself, Verily a New Hope is exactly what it advertises itself to be: a retelling of the classic George Lucas film in the style of a Shakespearean play. I’ll admit my own personal bias here: something this catered to both my love of literature and science fiction was just too tempting to pass by. That said, I was pleasantly surprised at how accessible of a read this was, even for people not exclusively in its target audience. While Verily a New Hope is a great way to introduce readers to the language of Shakespeare by using a familiar plot to make the “prithee”s and “heretofore”s less daunting, it’s also a great vehicle for imagining a rarely-seen overlap between science fiction and theatrical performance. Many of the cinematic action sequences are instead dramatically described by a narrating chorus, and in true Shakespearean fashion, props are minimized and only mentioned in the dialogue rather than the stage direction. A theatrical adaptation of Doescher’s work would be not only viable, but also a really interesting performance in its own right.

As a technical piece of writing, Verily a New Hope is downright impressive. The entire thing is in perfect iambic pentameter – a type of literary form that not even Shakespeare, who is best known for using it, was a consistent master of. And the translation of an action movie into the pacing of a five-act play allowing for scene and costume changes was surprisingly seamless. It’s clear that Doescher really allowed himself to have fun in the construction of his adaptation, throwing in nods to some of the favourite lines for Shakespeare enthusiasts (“Exeunt Han and Chewbacca, pursued by stormtroopers”) while honouring the long-standing fans of the original trilogy  (addressing, if not answering, that long standing question of “who shot first?”). Obviously, in taking a major work of science fiction and pairing it with a major name in literature, a lot of artistic licence needs to be be accepted, and that is certainly the case here. Doescher alters huge chunks of dialogue while trying to stay true to the overall story, which results in some impulsive additions – like a series of lengthy monologues spoken by R2D2 throughout the play.

Unfortunately, the deliberate emphasis that Doescher puts on the moments of fan service he performs in Verily a New Hope are amusing at the start, but very quickly grow old. Rather than trying to stay true to Shakespeare’s tone and style, he often resorts to simply altering famous Shakespearan lines to fit the context of the Star Wars universe (giving Luke lines like “but O, / what light through yonder flashing sensor breaks?”). This is not necessarily a bad thing – it simply shows that Doescher decided to go with the safer route of parody rather than appropriation. Since Verily a New Hope is clearly a light-hearted endeavour from the start, it may be best to see it as such: and enjoyable adventure with a generous dose of Renaissance charm.

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