Darth Vader in a doublet

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I’ve liked Shakespeare since I was ten years old- and I owe it to my dad. We used to read bits of the plays aloud ( this was before tv and shortly after The Flood.) He used to explain the rude bits to me and we would do the Prince Hal and Falstaff scenes from “ Henry IV” or the rude mechanicals from “ Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

I totally fell in love with Shakespeare in the summer of 1964 when I saw the Peter Hall’s “ Wars of the Roses” sequence. That year the RSC did all the histories from “ Richard 11” to “ Richard 111”- and every weekend during the season they did all three parts of Henry V1 in one day. Nine hours of Shakespeare- and I got a seat right at the front. It was incredible- blood, battles, love affairs, hangings, evil plots- all happening two yards in front of me. I was totally blown away. I loved the spectacle- and I loved the story too- the great rambling, blood soaked tale which started with Richard 11 and ended with Richard 111 ( Ian Holm) twitching like some crushed spider as he died. I love Shakespeare. I think I’ve made the point.

I love “ Star Wars”- I always did. I love the visuals- swirling galaxies and space ships which looked….like real space ships would look. They had bumps and fairings and gun ports. They were the real deal. The story has everything a story should have…a boy on a search for himself, a beautiful girl, a buccaneering pirate of the spaceways and a robot double act. And it was so clever- Darth Vader is so much more than a pantomime villain; the bad guy storm troopers wear glossy white armour. Quest, love story, saga-Star Wars has the lot.

I love Shakespeare.I love Star Wars. You can imagine how I felt when I read” William Shakespeare’s Star Wars “ by Ian Doescher. Ecstatic doesn’t even get close.

This wonderful script is a re-imagining of “ Star Wars” written through the lens of Shakespeare’s writing . It’s in blank verse and Ian Doescher borrows shamefully ( and wittily) from the plays. At the very start of the play C3PO says:

“ Now is the summer of our happiness/ made winter by this sudden fierce attack”

That ‘s kind of familiar, isn’t it ?

The end -of-scene couplets are there as well: Luke says boldly:

“ A Jedi shall I be, in all things brave-

and thus shall they be honoured in their grave.”

There are lovely, perceptive touches. Han Solo is described as “ a smuggler with a lover’s kindly heart” and C3PO describes Vader as “ split ‘twixt manhood and machine.”

Great stuff, isn’t it ? But it isn’t just the language that shadows Shakespeare’s plays. Just look at the characters. Who is Luke but Hamlet, uncertain and unsure as his personality unfolds. Obi Wan is Prospero while he’s alive and Hamlet’s Father’s Ghost after he’s dead. Princess Leia is all the tough, brave girls in the comedies – Rosalind, Viola. Jabba is either Sir Tony Belch or Falstaff. Oh…and there’s one other clever reference…. Puck the mischievous sprite from “ A Midsummer Night’s Dream “ is…R2D2. All those beeps and trills are just a front. R2 speaks !

I cruised at light speed through this book in an afternoon, and now I’m going to start it again. I’m sure there are plenty of touches I’ve missed first time around. If you like the idea of Darth Vader in a doublet, then this is for you.

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