Shakespearean adaptation of A New Hope was perhaps the most
unusual Star Wars book of recent years - rewriting the screenplay of
the most iconic film story of modern times into Shakespearean iambic
pentameter - yet, surprisingly it worked. So Doescher returns with
his next project: an obvious sequel - adapting The Empire
Strikes Back. In many ways The Empire Strikes Back
works much better as a Shakespearean play than A New Hope
as it contains all the themes of a good Shakespearean drama: comedy,
love, betrayal, fights and of course tragedy.
features some of the most memorable Star Wars quotes: "No. I am your
father", "Try not! Do, or do not, there is no try", "I love you. I
know" - all of these and more have entered the social consciousness.
I suspect for most people reading this book the first thing they
will do would be to look up their favourite quote and see how
Doescher handled translating it into Elizabethan English - I know I
did! I wont spoil how Doescher handled them - you'll have to read
the book for yourself.
"Empire is famous, even infamous,
for limelighting a funny-speaking, small, green, muppet-styled
character for whom, I imagine, at least everyone who has seen the
film, has at one time or another tried to imitate. Given Yoda's
unique speaking style, the question is how would Doescher handle
Yoda's lines? Doescher admits that "[t]his was the question that
gnawed at [him]" when writing this book and his solution may appear
unorthodox, using haiku verse, but it works. With Luke speaking in
iambic pentameter, Yoda's haiku maintains a sense of the inverted
phrase order unique to Yoda: "Looking, are you, hmm? Found
someone you have, it seems! Is that not correct?"
striking thing is that Doescher adds a level of comedy to his
Shakespearean adaptation that Empire simply, possibly
thankfully, did not have. On Bespin we have singing Ugnaughts (!) -
reminiscent of Oz's Munchkins or Wonka's Ooompa Loompas. In another
scene two Stormtroopers discuss why Imperial edicts state that all
major structures must include "at least one chasm that's deep
and long and dark" - with one guard commenting on how easy it
would be for someone to fall down such a chasm - so why build them?
A question asked by many a Star Wars fan!
"Fans of Shakespeare
will love finding references to other works by the Bard, even the
occasional nod to one of his characters, in this adaptation.
Empire is well known for its love interest between Han Solo and
Princess Leia but it is Lando Calrissian whom Doescher imbues with
Romeo: "O, what light doth break upon mine eyes? What beauty's
this?" Lando might be the smoothest man in the galaxy but he
was caught between a rock and a hard place in Empire.
Doescher expands this character further than the movies ever
achieved with some wonderful soliloquies that convey the inner
turmoil he must have experienced between betraying his friends and
protecting his staff. Empire also gave us the second-most
iconic Star Wars villain - Boba Fett - and for this character
Doescher quite rightly forces him to speak in prose. A Shakespearean
trick to separate the lower classes, in this case Fett, from the
upper echelons of society - everyone else!
is Luke's tragedy and this is never forgotten by Doescher in his
adaptation. While we are keenly aware of Luke's destiny in
Empire, Doescher has created some truly beautiful soliloquies
for Luke that only further dramatise his predicament: "Yes, now
am I in Bespin - more fool I, for though my feelings say this is the
place, I know not yet for certain if it be [...] And yet
the Force doth call in clearest tones, as if to say: 'Here lies thy
destiny!'" Luke's journey in Empire is comparable to
any one of the Bard's tragic figures.
regarded by most fans (and non-fans alike) as the best of the six
Star Wars films for its dark themes of loss, betrayal and tragedy
and Doescher's treatment in rewriting it in the style of the Bard
has lost none of these themes. Doescher's aim in adapting the Star
Wars films is to attract more people, especially younger people, to
the works of the Bard and with this, his second adaptation, I really
do hope that Doescher is successful in achieving his objectives. As
someone who never got to study Shakespeare at school (it wasn't part
of the English language curriculum when I was at school in the
1980s), I know that Doescher has more than piqued my interest in
either reading or even watching one or more of Shakespeare's play.
"If you got a kick from Doescher's Verily, A New Hope
then The Empire Striketh Back is a worthy successor. And
with Doescher now confirmed as writing an adaptation of Return
of the Jedi all that remains would be for a company to produce
all three books onto the stage."