Full of romance, intrigue, and memorable fight scenes, when you look at Star Wars closely you may be surprised to discover it shares a bit with a number of equally epic and classic plays by playwright William Shakespeare. Both Shakespeare and George Lucas left a lasting impact on the world’s culture and with these similarities it seems fitting that eventually the work of these two bards would meet. All it took to bring them together was author Ian Doescher.
Doescher came up with the idea about three and a half years ago. It was the result of a combination of rewatching the original trilogy, reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and attending a Shakespeare festival where he saw a creative modern take of the play The Merry Wives of Windsor called The Very Merry Wives of Windsor, Iowa all around the same time. Doescher told Geek & Sundry that it was at the festival the idea clicked that it would be fun to rewrite the Star Wars films as if they were Shakespeare plays. The rest is history and a captivating series of books that gives the adventures from a galaxy far, far away a twist fit for the stage!
The first book, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope, was released in 2013 and was followed over the next year with The Empire Striketh Back and The Jedi Doth Return. In order to combine the two different worlds Doescher said he first had to figure out a few things.
“I was debating do I want to be referring to blasters and lightsabers or should I take that into sort of more of a Shakespearian context and maybe make it like crossbows and swords or something like that. I sort of decided that would be going too far in the Shakespeare direction because I think one of the tricks with writing a mashup is making sure that each side gets its fair due,” he said. “Then I was also trying to figure out how to do the action sequences because there’s so much of that in Star Wars particularly towards the end of the movie and so I remembered that in Henry V Shakespeare has the chorus come out and fakely apologize that on the Elizabethan stage they can’t show these mighty battles that they are supposed to be portraying. The chorus sort of became the ones who were narrating the action so I ended up using that.”
Of course he also watched the movie again and looked up the script to fill in character names and any dialogue he may have missed when previously watching it.
“Then it was just ‘Ok. How can this go into iambic pentameter? Is the character alone on the stage here to have a soliloquy or an aside with the audience?’ or something like that,” he said.
Doescher didn’t stop with the original trilogy. Earlier this year he released The Phantom of Menace and The Clone Army Attacketh. The saga concluded in September with Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge. The biggest challenge Doescher faced when trying to write the prequels plays was that he didn’t know the movies as well as the original trilogy.
“I actually got together on a conference call with a group of about six or seven friends to talk through the issues of the prequels before I started writing all of them, sort of my own little like prequel council,” he said. “I wanted to make sure not only that I was addressing all of the issues, but also on a basic level that I was making sure that I understood all of the plot points. I mean the prequels are kind of like some of Shakespeare’s most confusing histories, where there are all power plays going on and things like that. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t make some sort of big mistake in the retelling of them.”
Other challenges he faced with these prequel books were making sure they included something new for people who had already read his previous books and facing the problem of what to do with Jar Jar Binks. Doescher said that before he was even going to write the prequels he heard from people joking about him killing Jar Jar off in the first scene. He ended up having a discussion with his editor about if he should be trying to fundamentally change the prequels. After all, he also had people telling him he had the opportunity to “fix” the prequels!
“[My editor’s] argument, which I think was ultimately correct, was that the people who are going to be buying these books were basically going to be expecting them to be roughly the same thing as the original trilogy were. They weren’t going to be expecting huge plot differences or things totally changed, so he was making a case for adapting the movies as they are,” he said.
Doescher still dealt with Jar Jar however, and did something with the character that he said he hopes “makes sense both narratively and… fun for people who love to hate him.”
With the Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge now available, the circle of Shakespeare and Star Wars Doescher created is now complete–at least until the release of The Force Awakens. We all know there is much more Star Wars on the way, and while right now fans can enjoy Episodes I through VI in this fun format, it does beg the question of whether the new trilogy and anthology films may ever receive the same treatment. According to Doescher, it’s a possibility.
“The truly honest answer right now is I don’t know yet… I’m hopeful that if nothing else I’ll be doing The Force Awakens,” he said.
You can learn more about Shakespeare Star Wars on the Quirk Books website!
All image credits: Quirk Books