William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope - Ian Doescher

Star Wars and William Shakespeare together? COUNT ME IN!


Ian Doescher has done something that should have been done years ago (maybe someone has done it before, but this is the first time I have come across it). The film, Star Wars is familiar to us all, usually even to people who have not seen the film. And of course, everyone should know who Shakespeare is. I will just say that Star Wars in awesome and not go into further analysis of the story itself.


Loyal to the style of Shakespeare and his plays, the story is told in iambic pentameter, thus making the dialogue of the original movie fit to the Elizabethan time period. There are also some pretty kickass illustrations in the novel, my favorite being one in which Luke holds a Storm Trooper helmet (like Hamlet holding a skull). 



There is a book called The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell some of you might be familiar with. Basically it is a discussion about the theory of the journey the archetypal heroes go through in different mythologies. After researching these different hero journeys, Campbell came up with the definition called monomyth, which he summarized by saying : "A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man."  While forming this theory Campbell looked into the work of Freud (Oedipus complex) and Jung, for example. But other important source of Campbell were the stories and mythologies found around the work, including the works of Shakespeare - Hamlet was among his list of archetypal heroes mentioned.



The death of innocents doth bring me joy,

Because the dark side is my chosen path,

The senseless end of others pains me not.

For I have play'd the part of judge severe

And then have been the executioner

Why would I care for those on Alderaan,

When I have murder'd innocents as they?

'This my dark calling, which I do embrace

To Alderaan we fly on course direct,

And to this feast of death I'll not object.


When making Star Wars, George Lucas was intentionally using Campbell's theory of monomyth. Thus the link is established - Shakespeare wrote plays with archetypal characters, Campbell researched them and then Lucas used Campbell's theories to write the characters to Star Wars. Thus, the characters and the relationships found from Star Wars fit perfectly to the format of a Shakespeare play. There is the difficult father/son relationship between Darth Vader and Luke which can be found also from for example Hamlet (and also The Tempest, but in that case it is between a daughter and father). In Shakespeare's plays the villains are also usually very easy to identify, like Sith Lords, and they are usually purely evil - examples of this are for example Iago from Othello. There are also shared themes between Star Wars and Shakespeare's plays - for example Macbeth is also about the desire for power and the actions of fate and destiny.



"Thou shalt not label me

A mindless, brute philosopher! Nay, nay,

Thou overladen glob of grease, thou imp

Thou rubbish bucket fit for scrap, thou blue

And silver pile of bantha dung! Now, come,

And get thee hence away lest someone sees." 



What I usually love most about Shakespeare plays are the interesting side characters, such as Caliban from The Tempest. In Shakespeare's Star Wars, 3-CPO and R2-D2 are the observant side characters who comment on the events in a very humoristic manner. Obi -Wan Kenobi is an interesting one because at first he is the mentor and the wise man (almost like Prospero from The Tempest), but later on he becomes the haunting, advice giving ghost who reaches the hero (like Hamlet's father). 


I really enjoyed William Shakespeare's Star Wars, and I hope Doescher is already working on the sequel. A must read for every Star Wars/Shakespeare enthusiast.