“O Help Me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Help/Thou Art Mine Only Hope”


"shakespearean star wars"

And it is exactly what it looks like.

I am not surprised, per se, by the existence of this book — for as with any Star Wars tie-in, it is only ever a matter of time until.

However, I do wonder: is this strictly necessary? Is this paperback faux-Elizabethan verse drama the missing piece our civilization lacks in order to achieve its ultimate destiny as a species? While some may rank George Lucas among the preeminent bards of our modern age, did we-his-minions truly require a version of Star Wars (subtitle: Verily, A New Hope) in iambic pentameter?

That’s probably not a fair question. We do not, after all, demand similar from our Kardashians or our Duggars or even our Honey Boo Boos* — but then, I suspect that they occupy a less prominent place in popular culture than does, say, Darth Vader (tho’ do not ever suggest this to them, should the opportunity ever arise).

As of C.E. 2013, nearly everyone in the world has probably seen Star Wars at least once. Most, I think, like it well enough.** For a small minority, it is their raison d’etre — perhaps not ALL of its ever-expanding universe, but at least the first couple of films. That much we can probably agree on.

So, creatively speaking, where else in this galaxy far, far away can one conceivably go?

Well, I suppose…right here, to this book.

And how does it measure up? Well, that’s tricky. Although it’s a clever concept, I’m not certain that the execution is skillful enough to be sustained over five acts OR attract an audience outside hardcore devotees who feel they MUST OWN anything with the Star Wars logo emblazoned on it. In other words, I don’t really envision any English majors or theater geeks complaining, “But I’ve read A Winter’s Tale, like, a hundred times at least. Plus, I can practically recite the entire First Folio in my sleep! I need something new! Something like…Shakespearean Star Wars! 

However, I could see a bunch of underemployed post-grads (perhaps part of a $#!++y band that fancies itself an “art collective”?) performing it “ironically” at the kind of downtown bar that was once a tobacco warehouse and now insists on being called a “social club” while trying way too hard to be offbeat.

Because, for its faults, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars ends up being kind of appealingly goofy in a low-stakes, “Jesus, is that the time? Where did this evening GO?” way — a little like bits on late night talk shows or those SNL sketches that run at about 10 minutes from the end credits. Mind you, that is not a criticism, as I have an inexplicable fondness for precisely this sort of surreal absurdity.

And, to be fair, it’s not as if the original film’s plot or dialogue — with a small fistful of exceptions — was anything to cheer and hit with a screenwriting Oscar; from both a rhetorical and a narrative standpoint, the bar is pretty damn low.

So, in short: why not?***

For example, C-3PO adapts pretty well to his new medium (“O how those Jawas vex me!”) though something of Han Solo’s personality gets lost in translation (“Aye, then/My fondest hope is that thine Obi-Wan/Hath vanquished the wicked tractor beam.”)****

And in some places, it is possible that the dialogue is improved, as when Luke muses “–Yet I wonder if this Obi-Wan/Perchance may be some kin to yonder Ben.”

(Thereby incurring the wrath of Uncle Owen, who demands “Fie! Fie! Shall that old man now haunt my home?” adding “That wizard is a damned scurvy man.”)

However, even on the page, something is…missing. It’s one thing to indicate lightsaber battles or the destruction of the Death Star by employing terse stage directions, and quite another to see them in action (tho’ arguably this is not the fault of the script, which can only do so much.)

Moreover, die-hard fans may be interested to note that these same stage directions either do not clarify or purposely obfuscate What Actually Happened in the Mos Eisley Cantina: i.e. [They shoot, Greedo dies]*****

Sadly, this book is actually the runner-up in this latest round of Books That Make Me Go WTF? That honor belongs to the following novels: for your consideration and no, this is not a joke, apparently.

Ah, would that I had review copies! Sadly, I do not. Nor do I imagine, given Marvel’s long-standing tradition of generosity towards and respect for its fans******, I’ll be able to obtain them. However, I do have the option of pre-ordering them in advance of their June 18, 2013 release date.

Now, everyone’s got their thing. I recognize that and I don’t criticize it. Far be it from me to denigrate an individual’s love of Firefly fanfic or burning desire to design a series of cake-pops in the likenesses of the (currently rather extensive, though dwindling by the second) dramatis personae of A Song of Ice and Fire or go to hotel convention centers dressed up as Inuyasha. It’s not how I’D choose to spend my money or time, but I certainly don’t begrudge anyone else the pleasure of it.

Nevertheless, it does occur to me that, between what I’ve just described and the birth of Kindle Worlds, a new era of nonsensical media tie-ins may have dawned. How long until we see Transformers-vs-Gossip Girls: the Original Web Series? Not long, I’d wager.

In the end, I guess my reservations stem from the fact that there’s a world of difference between “fans doing it for themselves” and media conglomerates trying to squeeze as much money as possible out of people by taking advantage of their affection for certain cultural artifacts.

Meanwhile, to bed, perchance to have nightmares about Jar Jar Binks.

*Mark my words, when these dynasties eventually merge — and they will — their descendants will rival those of Genghis Khan, except nuttier.
**I fall into this camp, as I appear to be one of the few individuals on Earth who’s immune to sequels. I can read or watch the first installment of just about any series and, at the end, say “All right, I’m good.”
***Tho’ I confess, I did giggle when I read “True it is, that these are not the droids for which thou searchest.” — although I soon found myself wondering what Yoda was going to do without his linguistic schtick.
****Nevertheless, he does hold forth with a several entertaining soliloquies on the subject of his general awesomeness.
*****I prithee, sir, be thou explicit: WHO HATH LOOSED THE FIRST VOLLEY?
******In case you missed it, that was sarcasm.
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