Shakespeare and Star Wars – A digging deeper review

Nay, nay! Try thou not. But do thou or do thou not, For there is no “try.”

According to author Ian Doescher, if Jedi Master Yoda were somehow transported into a play by William Shakespeare, that’s exactly what he would sound like.

Although I personally never wondered “What would Star Wars be like as a Shakespearean play?” I’m very glad Doescher asked himself that question. He has now adapted all nine Star Wars episodes in the Skywalker saga as Shakespearean style stage plays. “Part the Ninth: The Merry Rise of Skywalker” was released this summer, completing the collection. 

I bought one of these Star Wars/Shakespeare adaptations for a friend for Christmas years ago, thinking of it more as a gag gift. However, even though it is humorous to see classic Star Wars dialogue done in the style of Shakespeare, these books are actually very well written. Doescher takes this literary style seriously, and he does a great job weaving in some elements from Shakespeare’s plays into the Star Wars narrative.

When I was younger, I wasn’t much of a fan of Shakespeare. I remember having to read “Julius Caesar” in high school, and well…I kinda hated it. I stumbled over the Elizabethan language and got lost in all the thy’s, thou’s, and wherefore art’s.

But then years later, my husband and I saw an advertisement for a Shakespeare festival taking place in a small town not far from where we live. The festival included a small medieval village with food vendors, shops, and more (sort of like a mini Renaissance Faire), as well as a Shakespeare play performed on an outdoor stage. We decided to go check it out (ironically, the play was “Julius Caesar”), and even though I wasn’t necessarily expecting to, I was completely spellbound.

Watching Shakespeare performed on a stage made the play come alive for me in a way it never had before. It was easier to understand the Elizabethan language and unfamiliar phrases when I could see the actors’ expressions and hear their tone of voice.

We had such a great time at the festival that we’ve been back every year since, and yes, I’m proud to say I’m now a fan of Shakespeare. Ian Doescher’s books manage to combine two of my loves — Star Wars and Shakespeare — and serve as a great intro to the Bard’s work if you’ve had trouble getting into it in the past.

If you love Star Wars but are not a fan of Shakespeare and think these books aren’t for you, I get it — just because Shakespeare is a classic author doesn’t mean you automatically have to love his writing. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

But even if to you “reading Shakespeare” equals “a chore,” I’d encourage you to still give these adaptations a try. The Star Wars theme makes the older language more accessible, and it’s just really, really funny to imagine Shakespearean actors presenting these lines up on a stage while wearing a medieval style Darth Vader costume (the illustrations in these books truly are excellent, and might be my favorite part of the series).

Star Wars and Shakespeare may at first seem like a quirky pairing, but they’re more alike than one might first assume.

The Skywalker saga shares many of the same themes as Shakespeare’s body of work. Like Shakespeare’s writings, Star Wars has elements of both comedy and tragedy.

Scroll through the BBC’s “60 Second Shakespeare” webpage, and you’ll find lots of parallels with Star Wars.

“Henry V” is about “a noble cause with noble warriors winning the day against overwhelming odds” — that sounds an awful lot like the Rebels vs. the Empire in “A New Hope.”

“Macbeth” is about temptation and being haunted by guilt — that’s also a good summary of Kylo Ren/Ben Solo’s journey in the sequel trilogy.

“As You Like It” is about love being “life’s greatest joy and greatest healer” — Star Wars has always been about love being a driving force in redeeming what once was lost.

Although Shakespeare’s plays were written hundreds of years ago, they still feel relevant today because the Bard captured human nature so well, and his powerful words carry an epic importance. I may be a bit biased, just because I love Star Wars so much, but I believe the universe George Lucas created will have that same kind of staying power many years from now.

If you want to get into Ian Doescher’s Star Wars Shakespeare series, a great place to start is with “Verily, A New Hope.” And just because the titles are so fun, here’s all of them:

  • The Phantom of Menace
  • The Clone Army Attacketh
  • Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge
  • Verily, A New Hope
  • The Empire Striketh Back
  • The Jedi Doth Return
  • The Force Doth Awaken
  • Jedi the Last
  • The Merry Rise of Skywalker

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