The Empire Striketh Back: Shakespeare Meeteth a Galaxy Far, Far Away

The Empire Striketh Back cover

When the idea for a Shakespearean rendition of Star Wars was pitched to us at Lucasfilm, I admit I was skeptical. It sounded like just another gimmick. But then I read Ian Doescher’s manuscript, and my attitude changed. Ian had lovingly crafted a tribute not only to Star Wars but to Shakespeare himself, showing respect and reverence for the Bard’s style even while transporting it to a galaxy far, far away. The rave reader reviews for the first book show that I was not alone in thinking Ian had written something special. And now the second book, The Empire Striketh Back, has been released, and it’s just as entertaining as the first.

Far from resting on his laurels, with each new book Ian introduces something new that adds to the enjoyment of this Shakespearean undertaking. I’ll let you discover for yourself how he deals with Yoda, but thought I’d spotlight one of Ian’s more interesting choices.

In the Shakespearean tradition, members of the lower classes often speak in prose to distinguish them from the elite — the gravedigger in Hamlet is probably the most famous example of this. And in The Empire Striketh Back, who better to represent that grittier, more practical point of view than Boba Fett? And so we have:

“More than that, Darth Vader knows that I shall serve him well and faithfully in the pursuit of Solo. He knoweth well that Boba Fett doth worship at sweet compensation’s throne, and would happily betray my own kin to earn the great reward that hath been promis’d. I would kill Solo without a thought, for what is he to me?”

It’s this kind of care to Shakespearean detail that makes these books stand out, and it should be no surprise that Ian works closely with a college professor on the literary elements. I’ve even heard tell of teachers bringing William Shakespeare’s Star Wars into the classroom, to help ease the way for Shakespeare’s actual works. As someone who is a fan of Shakespeare as well as a fan of Star Wars, this makes me proud to have had a small hand in these projects.

But aside from containing unexpected insight into Shakespeare’s styles, these books are, simply, a lot of fun. And very funny, in ways that expand on the original movies rather than just retelling them. Here’s one of my favorite excerpts from The Empire Striketh Back. In the movie, it’s a very brief moment, when a door closes in C-3PO’s face as he’s following Han and Leia through the Hoth base toward the Millennium Falcon. In the movie he merely utters, “How typical.” In Ian’s vision, here is just part of the golden droid’s response:

“O wretched fate,
To be deserted by my friends most dear.
These human beings care little for
Us droids who ever serve with loyalty.
Thus shall I end my days within this base,
A frozen remnant of the rebels’ stay
On Hoth. Belike one day explorers shall
Discover this defeated base, shall dig
Into its core and find a golden droid
Whose final resting place was ice and snow.
“Who would abandon such a lovely droid?”
No doubt this shall be their response when they
Espy me here.”

Poor Threepio! I laugh at his pain. And at a lot of other parts in The Empire Striketh Back. The spirit of the Bard is alive and well in the Star Wars galaxy as long as Ian Doescher is around.