When I read my friend Alex’s review of the book William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, Verily A New Hope, I was immediately intrigued. I had never heard of it before and it sounded very interesting, In subsequent discussion, knowing my reading habits, I mused that I would probably be better off with the audio book version.
I am so glad I went with that.
If you haven’t heard if it (like I hadn’t) the book William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, Verily A New Hope came out in 2013. In the afterword, author Ian Doescher makes the case that there’s only two degrees of separation between Shakespeare and Star Wars, making it the perfect material to be adapted into Shakespeare’s writing style. The end result is a marvelous audiobook that has the feel of a somewhat satirical Elizabethan drama. Truly, while listening to the unabridged audiobook, I thought there should be some adaptation of this somewhere (hint, Disney).
The audiobook has a small cast reading the character pieces, as well as a chorus and narrator. The readers are Daniel Davis, Jonathan Davis, January LaVoy, Marc Thompson, and author Ian Doescher. They create different sounds for each character. The result is one of the best mashups I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to.
The cast doesn’t take the material too seriously, and at the same time doesn’t descend into a lampoon of Star Wars: A New Hope. They come across with an almost Monty Python-like edge to the reading and it’s a lot of fun. I think my favorite was R2D2. He was given enough asides besides his beeps and blips that he was definitely a more interesting character. I would have sworn Patrick Warburton was reading the part of Han, but it isn’t. Still, the reader gives Han the combination of boisterousness and heart. The added dialog rounds out his character from what we see on the large screen
There’s soliloquies aplenty, especially from Luke and Ben. Again, they help to round out the character from what we saw on the screen and are often very amusing as well.
Battle scenes are narrated with the dialog interjected at the appropriate moments. That is one area where the screen version has it over any novel. I can imagine it because I already saw it. Still, it’s a lot of fun to hear. I loved the soliloquy Luke delivers just before the final battle against the Death Star, which was a crib from Henry V. It really felt like Shakespeare’s writings. Also, the first time Luke kills a stormtrooper, he delivers a soliloquy much like Hamlet delivers to Yorick in that play. It works quite well.
Lots of characters appear, such as Jabba and Greedo, and we don’t get the translation of what they are talking about the way the sub-titles were on the screen. You really have to know the movie to have a feel for what’s going on in those cases.
I know William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, Verily A New Hope falls under “satire” and it is and yet it isn’t. I found it to be a lot of fun and funny, but it wasn’t making fun of the original material. It’s not comedy either, although it has comedic moments, many of which did not appear in the original film. It’s just a really fun audio experience. Coming in a 3 1/2 hours, it’s not a short listen by any means. I’ve listened to it a couple of times while working on my diamond painting or doing other things around the house where I couldn’t sit in one place. Inevitably, I end up with a smile on my face.
As I was listening to it, I dreamed of seeing this on a stage somewhere. There were some issues with the licensing, but they have now been resolved, because I found this:
Lucasfilm gave Doescher their blessings with this, and it’s a very endearing piece of literature and performance (at least the audio version) for Star Wars fans. It’s humorous while not being over-the-top. It has the correct feel of a Shakespearean play and is entertaining to Star Wars fans at the same time. I highly recommend getting your hands on this audiobook.