Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Review of Shakespeare's Star Wars

Bustin’ a stitch doth make the hours seem short. I asked for this book for Christmas for shins and grins, and it didn’t disappoint…too much. The Shakespearean soliloquys, true to form, drew out new flavors in complex character development. It was fun to have someone like Doescher, who is invested in the Star Wars saga on a personal level and also well-acquainted with the expert storytelling of Shakespeare, retell a classic tale in a style which brings to light things I never caught the first time when watching the films. But mostly, it was just funny.

Some lines which almost madeth me to lose my continence:

[Luke] “But unto Tosche Station would I go, and there obtain some pow’r converters. Fie!”

[OBI-WAN] “…these are not the droids for which thou search’st.”

[Luke insulting the Millennium Falcon] “What folly-fallen ship is this? What rough-hewn wayward scut is here?”

[C-3PO to Han when Han explained a Wookie’s temper] “Thy meaning, Sir, doth prick my circuit board. ‘Tis best to play the fool, and not the sage…[to R2] pray let the Wookie win.”

[Leia to Luke upon first seeing him in a Stormtrooper’s armor] “Does Empire shrink for want of taller troops?”

[Han getting fed up with Leia’s complaints—can you blame him?] “Mayhap thy Highness would prefer her cell?”

And Doescher made a nice display of ‘the music in himself’ by incorporating well-known lines from Grandpa Bard himself: 

[Beginning of the first scene, the rebel ship is being attacked, C-3PO is talking] “Now is the summer of our happiness, made winter by this sudden, fierce attack!”

[Luke asking about the blinking lights on the Falcon’s dashboard, which signified the loss of their deflector shield] “What light through yonder flashing sensor breaks?"
[Luke, encouraging other X-Wing pilots on their final attack on the Death Star] “Once more unto the trench, dear friends, once more!”

I loved how R2-D2 played a very prominent role as a secret conspirator and possibly the real lynchpin to the whole narrative, saving everyone’s skin, especially his petty and berating friend, C-3PO, on more than one occasion. He was able to speak intelligibly in soliloquy when aside, but in front of others he spoke only in beeps and boops.

“Around both humans and the droids I must be seen to make such errant beeps and squeaks, that they shall think me simple. Truly, though, although with sounds oblique I speak to them, I clearly see how I shall play my part, and how a vast rebellion shall succeed by wit and wisdom of a simple droid.”

Ah, R2. A doormat to some thou seemedst, yea, a small square of toilet tissue even, through which one’s fingers’ doth break. But Shakespeare spoke of thee truly: "This fellow is wise enough to play the fool."

Some parts of the book almost startled me by their profundity:

[OBI-WAN is speaking aside to himself about Luke] What shall I of the father tell the child? If gentle Luke knew all that’s known to me I’ll warrant he’d not understand the rhyme and reason for my words. And yet, what is’t to lie? To tell the truth, all else be damned? Or else to tell, perhaps, a greater truth?”

After this part in particular, it dawned upon me how many people misled (lied) to Luke about his or their identity, even if for a short time. His uncle, OBI-WAN, Yoda, Darth Vader…yeah, all the people that mattered. But OBI-WAN in his soliloquy believes that the full weight of the truth wouldn’t have been accepted or recognized immediately by Luke even if he had heard it. Then again, maybe OBI-WAN was just being a drama queen. He did, after all, do things like pretend to look and sound like a monster to scare away the sand people instead of just confusing them with a Jedi mind trick, told the guy threatening Luke that Luke was a “little one” and wasn’t even “worth the effort”, tried to negotiate cooly with Han Solo, but ended up congratulating himself on offering Han 7,000 (of Leia’s money) more than Han asked for, called Darth Vader “Darth”, as if ‘Darth’ was a first name and not a title, and allowed himself to be chopped in half by Vader as if he was surrendering when it was very clear that Vader was winning anyway. So, yeah, maybe he was a little bit of a drama queen. Now, where was I?

The most hilarious scene is where two Stormtroopers are debating back-and-forth about whether or not there were still people aboard the Millennium Falcon after it had been brought into the Death Star and inspected. One Stormtrooper convinces the other that his worry is just an over-active imagination.

Guard 1: Thou art a friend, as I have e’er maintain’d, and thou hast spoken truth and calm’d me quite. The rebels hide herein! What vain conceit! That e’er they should the Death Star enter—ha! 
Guard 2: It warms my heart to see thee so restor’d, and back to thine own merry, native self. 
Han: [within] Pray, may we have thy good assistance here?
Guard 1: [to Guard 2] So, let us go together, friend. Good cheer! [Guards 1 and 2 enter the ship and are killed.]

Yet, as with many other books, what began so well, ended too soon. The first half was extremely amusing, and there were some moments that kept it interesting throughout (e.g. Luke’s soliloquy to the mask of a Stormtrooper whom he killed for the uniform), but it started to drag. Maybe it took itself too seriously? The author never strayed from iambic pentameter, and though that is indeed a feat, it’s a rather uninteresting one to me, and limited Doescher’s options. Or maybe, I’m thinking, he knew that this book was only going to be interesting as a novelty, and never in his wildest dream expected anyone as big a nerd as me to read it from beginning to end but only read excerpts out-loud to guffawing friends.

Well, I love Shakespeare, and I love Star Wars, so the idea as a whole was a good fit for me. Not sure I’ll read the next book if it comes out, but I may change my mind. Maybe the novelty hasn’t completely worn off. But for now, parting is more sweet than sorrow.

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