William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back
By Ian Doescher
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far ― well, really about a year ago, William Shakespeare (died 1616) teamed up with Oregon author Ian Doescher to adapt filmmaker George Lucas’ “Star Wars” into a peerless 16th-century play.
Now there’s a sequel, “William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back,” and it’s just as much fun.
As the original film, “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” was darker and romantic than its predecessor, so Doescher’s new version, writing as the Bard, has more depth.
To take it more seriously than probably intended and written, this might be a good way of introducing Shakespearean language to a new generation. The “Star Wars” saga is so well-known to 20th-century audiences that it might catch their interest.
Since it’s now a play, the movie’s visual images have to be translated into words and direction. So now, in the movie’s scene where they are trying to repair the spaceship, the “Millennium Falcon,” smuggler Han Solo sounds considerably more like love-struck Romeo when speaking to Princess Leia:
“O Princess, may we end these pointless games?
“May we two souls of flame extinguish’d be
“Just long enough to drink of love’s rewards?”
When they finally kiss, her comment, in an unromantic aside, is, “He kisses by the book.”
Young Jedi-in-training Luke Skywalker faces former Jedi Master Yoda, whose dialogue sounds not much different from that in the movie. Hmm.
As in the first book, the non-humans have speaking parts. R2D2 beeps and meeps but has the occasional soliloquy ― here on Luke, “I would that I my master could protect, but such is not the role I have to play.”
The Wookiee, Chewbacca, mostly says “Auugh!” and “Egh.”
More verbose is the huge Wampa that attacks Luke Skywalker on the frozen planet of Hoth who now introduces himself as:
“Pray know that I a wampa simple am,
“And take no pleasure in my angry mood.
“Though with great force this young one’s face I slam,
“I prithee know I strike but for my food.”
This does not stop Skywalker from lopping off the Wampa’s hand as he escapes.
Then there is the soliloquy of a space slug, named exogorth ― you learn something new every day ― which tried to eat Solo’s escaping ship:
“Alas, another meal hath fled and gone,
“And in the process I am sorely hurt.
“These travelers who have escap’d my reach
“Us’ me past the endurance of a block!”
Everyone has their say from the pragmatic Lando Calrission, administrator of Cloud City, and betrayer of his friends, bidding “Farewell!” (four times) to his former life then vowing his allegiance to the “great Rebellion.”
Even the author’s note on the last page is written in a pseudo-“Shakespearean” sonnet 3720-2-1 “To Thine Own Site be True.”
The first book suggested that a need for a dramatic reading in a picnic setting with a bottle of wine, cheese and bread (and a designated driver) to fully enjoy it.
“William Shakespeare’s The Empire Strikes Back” calls for a more formal dinner setting ― roast beef, buttered Brussels sprouts, and a dark chocolate trifle. Again make sure you have a designated driver because it may take several bottles of wine to fully enjoy speaking the lines.
Good luck getting to the end without rolling off your chairs. This book is a hoot. (MCT)