July 13, 2014

Shakespearean ‘Star Wars’ saga wraps up nicely

“The Jedi Doth Return” by Ian Doescher (Quirk, 165 pages, $14.95)

“The Jedi Doth Return” by Ian Doescher (Quirk, 165 pages, $14.95)

A year ago, the first “Shakespeare’s Star Wars” book came out, and this month the saga wraps up with “The Jedi Doth Return,” a fitting finale to this fun and fanciful series.

As with the previous books, this one retells a “Star Wars” movie in the style of William Shakespeare: The characters speak largely in iambic pentameter, asides and soliloquies give the reader a window into the characters’ feelings, and a chorus fills in the unseen action. The plot follows the movie, and the lines more or less mirror the original dialogue, with a Shakespearean flavor: Yoda speaks in haiku, the Ewoks chirp in pidgin-English rhymes, the rancor sings and Salacious Crumb plays the Fool.

The original movie’s big set pieces – the speeder bike chase, the Endor forest battle and the Rebel fleet vs. the Death Star – by necessity take place mostly offstage in the book, hinted at by a few snippets of dialogue or described by the chorus. While these scenes were exciting on screen, the stage version does not suffer from the lack of them, since it focuses more on the human (and nonhuman, as the case may be) drama of the saga. And, honestly, trimming down the Ewoks’ presence was an improvement.

The true conflict of the movie – the struggle between Luke Skywalker and the Emperor for the soul of Darth Vader (and the fate of the galaxy) – is only enhanced by a Shakespearean presentation. Swap the lightsabers for swords, and it’s a perfect fit.

What’s been fun about the whole series is not only seeing classic lines rendered in Elizabethan English (“Fie, ’tis a trap!”) but also hearing characters who have no lines in the movies speak. R2-D2 gets asides in all three books, Darth Vader shows a more conflicted mind through his soliloquies, and even the rancor keeper, whose “pet” is a carnivorous monster, expresses his grief at the death of his beloved companion in a page-long lament.

Whether the enjoyment from these books speaks to the timeliness of Shakespeare or the timelessness of “Star Wars,” or perhaps both, is for the reader to decide, but fans of both will enjoy them, indeed.

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