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William Shakespeare's Star Wars, by Ian Doescher

Updated on November 20, 2015

A while back, someone that I bumped into on the Internet, it may have been a discussion of an XKCD comic where Munroe was wondering who would be the final person to ever quote "Star Wars," offered the opinion that, as "Star Wars" is a movie series, knowledge of it will not survive the next few generations. The poster's reasoning was that eventually no one will bother porting the movie over into future formats. The works of literature that have survived millennia, he or she opined, have survived because they were published and thus accessible to future generations. I had to point out to this poster that there are at least two novelizations of "A New Hope" in existence (one for adults, one for kids) and that there is at least one comic book adaptation. The novelization has also been translated into a number of languages, and there is one translation into Early Modern English. This book is that final translation that I mentioned.

We all know the plot of "A New Hope," so I'm going to skip right to the critique. Overall the conversion to Early Modern English is excellent, particularly the use of iambic pentameter. I how Doescher sometimes uses R2-D2's lines to finish up the syllables of the previous speaker's lines particularly amusing.

One thing that was especially useful was the way that using soliloquy, R2-D2 was able to speak directly to the audience. For example, at one point R2-D2 points out that running off to Obi-Wan Kenobi's home worked to the plot's advantage. Not only did it get the message to Obi-Wan but it also worked to lure Luke to Obi-Wan's (which, in turn, both saved Luke's life and led to Luke becoming a Jedi).

As for errors, I could only find a few places where the meter of the lines seemed to me to be off and in one place (page 35 in my edition, which is the end of Act 1, Scene 6), R2-D2 "exeunt"s all by himself. "Exeunt" is the plural of "Exit," so "Exit" should be the appropriate term. I considered the possibility that that he "exeunt"s because it is the end of a scene and maybe there was some kind of rule that I had previously missed saying that "exeunt" is used at the end of a scene regardless of how many characters there are, but other scenes that end with one character on the stage end with "exit" (the very next scene is one of these), so I have to count R2-D2 "exeunt"ing as being an error.

This could be amusing or annoying depending on your perspective, is that after putting down this book and picking up something else to read, I will immediately start hearing the text of the new book in iambic feet. For example, if I were to pick up "Pride and Prejudice," right after putting this book down, I would hear "It IS a TRUTH uNIverSALly . . . ." It doesn't take long to straighten itself out, though. I suspect that I'm doing this because I am consciously counting the syllables in the line. As a result, I don't know if I would have this problem if I were really reading Shakespeare, in which case I wouldn't be putting so much emphasis on whether the author gets the iambic feet right. I should probably check that out sometime.

I also have to put a word in about the illustrations by Nicolas Delort. I love the illustrations in this book, which are done in a woodcut style. My personal favorite is the next-to-last illustration, which shows Darth Vader facepalming as the Death Star, mounted on an Elizabethan-style pedestal globe stand, burns.


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