Book Review: Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope

13th September 2014

Introduction to the book

cover for william shakespeare's star wars verily a new hope

This book answers the question: what if Star Wars were written four-hundred years ago by one of the English language’s most famous playwrites, William Shakespeare? I very much enjoyed this book as I was expecting I would before I read it. In this book review I will explain why I firmly believe this book to be an excellent piece of work and beyond merely being a parody of Star Wars and Shakespeare.


Why I chose to read it?

I chose to try this book as I am a huge Star Wars fan and also a literature enthusiast and writer myself. So this book seemed very interesting to me and I was also expecting a few laughs from it. Essentially I was curious as to how Star Wars by Shakespeare could be presented.

Plot

As we would expect at the very least, the plot is exactly the same as the first Star Wars film (A New Hope). In fact the story told in Verily, A New Hope is a scene-by-scene retelling of the film with only the use of language in the dialogue changed to Elizabethan English grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation (see below: Writing style).

Characters

The characters are all kept the same as in the original film, with one addition to add Shakespearean authenticity. There is the addition of a ‘Chorus’. For those who are unaware of the role of the Chorus in older drama, it was essentially a narrator to the story being told through the action on stage. This is exactly the role of the Chorus in Verily, A New Hope. They tell some of the plot to the “audience”, which is in this case the “readers” and so far as I know there has not been a stage production of this book yet (I hope there will be and would like to know if so). Even the old characters from the films are presented in new ways so we can have the chance to look on them differently as the author explores their deep inner feeling and internal thoughts on the action through asides, soliloquies and dramatic monologues. This is particularly true for Darth Vader, Han Solo and R2D2. Vader is presented in his usual toughness and cold ruthlessness to the other characters. Yet in his asides we see another side to him as a tortured soul with a tragic past and a sense of feeling the need to act up to the toughness he presents. Similarly, in Han we are shown his usual tough scoundrel persona in his interactions with the other characters. However, in his asides and monologues Han Solo shows another more caring, selfless and generous side to his personality that he does not want to exhibit to others in order to maintain his tough reputation. My favourite aside from Han makes a nod to a long-held in-joke and debate among Star Wars fanatics:

“And whether I shot first, I’ll ne’er confess!” Act 3, Scene 1

My favourite exploration of character from Doescher was his exploration of R2-D2s character. In his interactions with the other characters he only communicates through a series of beeps and whistles as he always does. But Doescher shows this as being an act since R2 will often turn to the audience and express his inner thoughts and how he is meaning to play the fool and seeming to find it whimsical how easily he is able to fool others into believing his act. I initially found his monologues to be hilarious but later thought it fits in very well with the commonly held fan theory of R2 and Chewbacca being spies for the rebellion and responsible for much of the action. I believe the author has at least borrowed elements of this theory in Verily, A New Hope because despite no implication of Chewbacca being anything other than Han’s smuggling partner, R2 does say in one of his asides that he has a greater role to play and implying that he is indirectly in control of the action:

“Although with sounds oblique I speak to them, I clearly see how I shall play my part, and how a vast rebellion shall succeed by wit and wisdom of a simple droid.” Act 1, Scene 2

Clearly the author at least believes R2 had a major role in helping the rebellion succeed and shows him as playing stupid, likely to cover up his true role to play in the rebellion.

Writing style

One of the greatest achievements of the author is the sense of authenticity which they recreated in writing the book. The use of language is consistently in the style of Elizabethan language and fitting with the linguistic and stylistic conventions of Shakespeare. From the use of grammar and vocabulary, right down to the use of iambic pentameter, Doescher has admirably recreated the style of the Bard in a believable and unpretentious way. This is why I cannot view this work as just parody. It’s been crafted with far too much love and attention to detail to be a mere parody.

Artwork

The artwork featured in Verily, A New Hope is a large part of its beauty. If features key scenes from the film reimagined with an Elizabethan theme intertwined with the original scenes. Essentially it’s the same scenes with elements of Elizabethan period costume and decor.

Overall verdict

Pros:
– Star Wars (is there any need for another reason to read this, really?)
– An interesting take on a great work of modern day popular fiction, rewritten in the style of one of the English languages greatest writer’s of the distant past
– Carefully written in a style that could have indeed been written by Shakespeare
– Explores the characters in great depth with soliloquies and asides
– Proves itself to be a book capable of making you laugh and also seriously appreciate the hard work that went into writing this
– Injokes and references to both Shakespeare’s works and the Star Wars franchise and fandom
Cons:
– Too short
– Maybe could have done more to explore inner thoughts of the characters
My score: 9/10

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