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Sunday, May 4, 2014

What I’m Reading: William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back

Appropriately for this May the Fourth, I’m reading Ian Doesher’s Shakespearian version of George Lucas’ film The Empire Strikes Back.  And, oh what fun this little book is.  Of course the Star Wars geeks will appreciate it.  It is a grand retelling of the story.  My 12 year old son, who has only a limited appreciation for the bard (thus far) but who has watched the movies repeatedly loves this book (and it’s predecessor, and plans to get the third volume soon, as well).

But fans of Shakespeare will appreciate it as well.  Doesher cleverly reworks many lines from Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream,  The Merchant of  Venice, and many others  -into the story. 

The Wampa that attacks Luke on the ice planet of Hoth borrows lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s Lion:

You viewers all, whose gentle hearts do fear
the smallest womp rat creeping on the floor,
my now perchance both quake and tremble here,
when wampa rough in wildest rage doth roar.

Darth Vader cribs a few lines from Shylock:

                -Hath not a s Sith eyes?
Hath not a Sith such feelings, heart and soul,
as any Jedi Knight did e’er possess?
If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you
Blast us, shall we not injur’d be?  If you
Assault with lightsaber, do we not die?

This is really quite a fun – and funny - piece of writing.  There are puns worthy of the bard.  There are clever nods to Shakespearean convention – and even to Billy Dee Williams’ stint as a spokesperson for Colt. .45 Malt Liquor.  But that isn’t to say that it’s just a humorous work, for like all great stories there is depth and power and pathos in it too.  Shakespearean themes of love and honor and betrayal are present, here as well.

Doesher expands the roll of Lando Calrissian a bit – which is nice.  He becomes something  of a tragic figure – more than the mere foil he was  in the film.  And, since Shakespearean dialogue can sound a bit like Yoda-speak, Doesher has written Yoda’s lines in haiku form so as to distinguish him from the other characters. 

Having had the opportunity to perform in a couple of Shakespeare’s plays, I would love the opportunity to be a part of a production of The Empire Striketh Back

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