Studying Skywalkers: Talking with William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Author Ian Doescher

"Do. Or do not." "To be, or not to be." checks in with the author who mashed up the worlds of Shakespeare and Lucas.

Studying Skywalkers is an exclusive column that investigates the characters, themes, and lessons of Star Wars from an educational, literary perspective. In this installment, looks at Ian Doescher’s book tour for Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge.

When William Shakespeare’s Star Wars first appeared in July of 2013, audiences were delighted to discover that the work of George Lucas was being interpreted in Shakespearean language. Author Ian Doescher had the idea of taking the Star Wars films and adapting them in perfect iambic pentameter (as well as other styles of poetry). The results set the publishing world ablaze, and managed to please both fans of Star Wars as well as lovers of Shakespeare. Multiple New York Times bestsellers later, Ian has embarked on a multiple city tour to promote the latest book in the series, Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge, Star Wars Part the Third.

Ian Doescher

Fans of these wonderful books got the chance to meet Ian Doescher recently in St. Louis, Missouri, as he read some passages from the new book at Left Bank Books. Ian read some passages, answered questions, signed copies of his books, and performed with some of the talented actors from St. Louis Shakespeare. It was a wonderful evening, full of smiles and laughter, and an excellent example of how beautifully the works of Star Wars and Shakespeare complement one another.

The performances from the St. Louis Shakespeare were a true delight, as the attendees were treated to multiple scenes from Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge. The actors were brilliant and hilarious, and regaled audiences with a special appearance from Kermit the frog, who with a little help from lettuce leaves, took on the role of Yoda. They closed with Anakin and Palpatine’s conversation at the opera, and it was an incredible display of acting prowess and Doescher’s poetic language. If you ever get a chance to see Ian’s work performed live, it is a real treat, particularly with talented actors like this group.

Ian Doescher book tour

I spoke with Ian about the event, as well as his experiences on the tour. This venue featured as many Shakespeare fans as Star Wars fans; how was this experience unique?

Ian Doescher: It’s always a unique experience to have both Shakespeare people and Star Wars people in an audience. My book events often skew one way or the other — I’m speaking at a comic con for a lot of Star Wars fans, or at a Shakespeare festival for theater types. When an audience contains both types, it’s electric. People are engaged on both sides of the mashup, which is truly the ideal situation. I did my best, in writing these books, to give equal honor to Star Wars and Shakespeare, so to be at a reading where people are enjoying both is gratifying for me as an author. Why are Star Wars and Shakespeare such a perfect fit?

Ian Doescher: There are so many themes that make Star Wars and Shakespeare perfect for each other: larger-than-life tragic figures like King Lear and Darth Vader, young people seeking out their destinies, like Luke and Leia and all of Shakespeare’s lovers, interesting father-son relationships (Hamlet/King Hamlet and Luke/Vader), comic side characters like Rosencrantz and Guidenstern or R2-D2 and C-3PO. The movies are also roughly the length of a Shakespeare play — a little over two hours — so that works, too.  If Shakespeare were alive today, I think he would be writing the popular stories of the day. Namely, something a bit like Star Wars.

Left Bank Books was the perfect venue to enjoy Ian Doescher’s approach to Star Wars through Shakespearean language. The books are as much fun to see performed as they are to read. Be sure to check out Ian’s book tour here, and live the books with the author.

Dan Zehr is a high school English teacher with an MS in Teaching and Learning, and runs Coffee With Kenobi (with co-host Cory Clubb), a Star Wars Podcast that analyzes the saga through critical thinking, analysis, interviews, and discussion. He is also a member of the Rogues (as Blue Leader), a network of teachers that incorporate Star Wars in the Classroom.