William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back - More of this, oh yes please!

William Shakespeare's the Empire Striketh Back - Ian Doescher

Warning: I'm assuming everyone reading knows that Darth Vader killed Luke's father...wait...

 

You can find my review of the first book here: Verily, A New Hope.

 

As my husband just stated a moment ago, I love fusions. Steampunk is something I recognized immediately as fandom and I love music groups that combine classical music with modern, such as Trans-Siberian Orchestra and The Piano Guys. So when confronted with William Shakespeare and Star Wars - one a writer I read for fun and the other something I've long been an obsessed fan of - I couldn't say no. My thoughts on the first book, you can read above. This book had an even more difficult task; could it measure up to the first, particularly as this is not my favorite movie?

 

The Empire Striketh Back not only measured up, it made me appreciate this movie anew. I can't wait to watch it again, as I've gained a new understanding and new thoughts on this movie.

 

Doescher made some changes from the last time and I felt they were solid, well chosen ones. First, something I'd seen many people bring up in reviews on Verily, A New Hope, was his 'overuse of The Chorus'. This surprised me in the first book, as I've yet to read the play where Shakespeare made use of this, but I found it worked quite well and allowed your thoughts on the actors (and presumably you could do the same with them on stage) and allow The Chorus to fill in what you were suppose to see. However, it is also true that this style was not used in any other of his plays. This time, the author has the characters describe what they witnessed, such as Luke telling us what happened when the Wampa Ice Beast attacked him or Fett describing the Falcon flying off after hiding on the Star Destroyer.

 

Second, he used two exceptions to the iambic pentameter that I found interesting and good choices. One is based on an element Shakespeare used and the other is an interesting way of dealing with a unique character. In his work, apparently some characters spoke in prose rather then the poetry of iambic pentameter. These were generally common people, such as the gravedigger in Hamlet. So who in this story would best fit the common use of prose? Why Boba Fett, of course! Gravedigger... bounty hunter, equals out to me. It does stand out and points out his status amid Lords of the Sith and businessmen.

 

"My Lord, although his death would bring me

joy, it doth not pay. Jabba, like thine Emperor,

giveth no fees for damag'd goods....

What then, for Boba Fett?"1

 

The second is the answer I wanted since I read the first one; what would Yoda sound like in Shakespeare's speech. Doescher made, in my opinion, a great choice and retained Yoda's speech as different from the rest of the universe. This time Yoda speaks in Haiku and it works so well. I ended up speaking aloud all most all his text, just to hear how it sounded. Not only does it maintain his unique form of talking but I found it fitting that the wise master speak in short, poignant verses. My favorite, of course, was thus:

 

"Nay, nay! Try thou not.

But do thou or do thou not,

For there is no 'try.'"2

 

But once again, what made this book for me was the language. There is so much contained within the text with both the well known Star Wars tale and lines melded with well known Shakespeare lines...and it has to all (minus the exceptions above) be in iambic pentameter. That fact that it is readable, not to mention how good a quality this all is, is astounding. I found this easier in some ways to read then the first, though whether that was because I remembered the story better or it flowed better...I'm not sure. As with the first book, it was equally amazing to hear lines I knew from Shakespeare discuss spaceships and lasers as it was to read Star Wars quotes I've known all my life in Shakespearean English. I waited impatiently for some of those great lines from either source to come, knowing that they'd be recognizable despite the new form. I'll give only two, though I could quote this things forever.

 

The first comes from Vader's solioquy near the beginning of the book. The source is instantly recognizable, yet the words take on an interesting meaning in the face of what we know happens in The Revenge of the Sith (though I like to pretend the prequel don't exist generally).

"--Hath not a 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?"

 

The second is two different short quotes from Leia and Han, respectively. The whole book does a great job of portraying their growing relationship...and the barbs they throw at each other. I think...not sure, but I believe some of their exchanges come from Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. At another part, I swear Leia sings Ophelia's song from Hamlet...with Chewbacca chiming in! The first line comes after Han hits Lando when he realizes how they've been set up. Leia tells him: "My soldier, O my heart, thy fire doth blaze! Thy skill with others ne'er doth cease t'amaze."3

The second is best known quote from the movie: "-- I know." Don't worry, the author knows when to leave perfection alone. >_<

 

But what comes out most in this one is the humor. There were some parts that had me laughing out loud (not a good thing at times; once I was in a Hospital waiting room!). Everything from melodramatic Space Slugs to guards questioning the building practices of walkways over deep pits that seem to pop up on Death Stars and Cloud Cities, there was laughter to go with the darker tale of this middle play. While we know that will happen in the next movie, the characters don't and this reads more as a tragedy then as a romantic comedy (though those elements are there) or a history, which is how I see this saga.

 

As in the last book, the illustrations and the author's notes at the end really added to this and I can't say how much I enjoyed this. I simply can't wait till the next one, which happens to be my favorite!

 

 

 P.S. Lobot's headwrap thing was totally steampunk! >___<

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I received this book as a giveaway from the publisher on Booklikes.

 

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1. [P. 137, lines 36-40]

2. [P. 98, lines 29-31]

3. [P. 133, lines 67-68]