Stars Wars Improved by Shakespeare

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There were many who thought Star Wars couldn't be improved, except - of course - by deleting the infamous and irritating Jar Jar Binks, as one fan, Mike J. Nichols did in The Phantom Edit. Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal in 1999 described Jar Jar as a "Rastafarian Stepin Fetchit on platform hoofs, crossed annoyingly with Butterfly McQueen." But don't get me going on Jar Jar. Now, where was I? Oh, yes, Shakespeare.

I've always thought William Shakespeare knew something we didn't, or, if we ever did, have forgotten. He seems to have at hand the Manual of Human Nature, the one that God hands out at birth and that the rest of us seem never to have gotten. His characters may doubt, but not he. The vigor of his poetry cascades from a surety of view that is impressive, commanding. And the rhythm of iambic pentameter cements the authority. Now that same authority is available for Star Wars.

The remarkable Quirk Books has previously published amusing of remixes of classics (Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; Android Karenina), and now has given us William Shakespeare's Star Wars , by Ian Doescher, a retelling of the movie A New Hope as if written by Will himself.

The prologue gives the idea:

Chorus: It is a period of civil war. The spaceships of the rebels, striking swift From base unseen, have gain'd a vict'ry o'er The cruel Galactic Empire, now adrift. Amidst the battle, rebel spies prevail'd And stole the plans to a space station vast, Whose pow'rful beams will later be unveil'd And crush a planet: 'tis the Death Star blast. Pursu'd by agents sinister and cold, Now Princess Leia to her home doth flee, Deliv'ring plans and a new hope they hold: Of bringing freedom to the galaxy. In time so long ago begins our play, In star-crossed galaxy far, far away.

Or, from C-3PO: Now is the summer of our happiness Made winter by this sudden, fierce attack! Our ship is under siege, I know not how. O hast thou heard? The main reactor fails! We shall most surely be destroy'd by this. I'll warrant madness lies herein!

Or Darth Vader: And so another dies by my own hand, This hand, which now encas'd in blackness is. O that the fingers of this wretched hand Had not the pain of suff'ring ever known. But now my path is join'd unto the dark, And wicked men--whose hands and fingers move To crush their foes--are now my company. So shall my fingers ever undertake To do more evil, aye, and this--my hand-- Shall do the Emp'ror's bidding evermore. And thus we see how fingers presage death And hands become the instruments of Fate.

The woodcuts by Nicholas Decort are brilliant, echoing those that might have been produced in the 16th century. Let's hope they are included in sequels . . . yes, Ian Doescher said in an interview with Blair Thornburgh: "I'd love to write The Empire Striketh Back and The Jedi Doth Return."

The full version is available on Amazon ($9.99 for Kindle edition, $11.34 hardcover). There's also a trailer for the book on YouTube. And an article on it online at www.theverge.com, with some entertaining blog comments, some written in iambic pentameter. The book sounds like substantial fun, but one reader was disappointed, and blogged in The Verge.

From Blogger: CarpeGuitarrem Eh. A scent here of mediocrity Itself makes clear, small understanding, aye, of Shakespeare's form and tone and verbiage. Again, good readers, am I an ingrate? I pray not--for valiantly tried this was. Yet still it holds the quaintest stamp within of schools, thus thinking, which make the fell claim of "thee" and "verily" and "here anon" as that which does comprise the Bardic pen, full-missing the grand import found therein. Elsewhere, I'll look, and bid thee all farewell.

Star Wars purist-fans may be disappointed that R2-D2 speaks, though not when humans are around. But my approval was gained as I realized that C-3PO has developed a flair for Shakespearean invective:

--Thou shalt not label me A mindless, brute philosopher! Nay, nay, Thou overladen glob of grease, thou imp, Thou rubbish bucket fit for scrap, thou blue And silver pile of bantha dung! Now, come, And get thee hence away lest someone sees.

My comment is: Case closeth, yea, indeed, and verily!

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