Star Wars Shakespeare!

WilliamShakespearesStarWarsDo you teach Shakespeare? Interested in a new twist on iambic pentameter? Enter William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, by Ian Doescher. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars (subtitled “Verily, A New Hope”) is a retelling of the Star Wars tale as it might have been written by the bard himself. Imagine Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo, wookies and robots, facing Darth Vader in verses that begin:

It is a period of civil war.

The spaceships of the rebels, striking swift

From base unseen, have gain’d a vict’ry o’er

The cruel Galactic Empire, now adrift.

Amidst the battle, rebel spies prevail’d

And stole the plans to a space station vast,

Whose pow’rful beams will later be unveil’d

And crush a planet: ‘tis the DEATH STAR blast.

 While perhaps only the most devoted Star Wars fans will want to read the book cover to cover, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars makes clear that Shakespeare’s language can be used for high adventure, romance, and humor. Imagine R2D2 meeting Obi-Wan for the first time.

[Aside] –Almost I could

My metal tongue release and speak to him.

This man doth show sure signs of wisdom and

Experience. [To Obi-Wan] Beep, beep, meep, beep,

         meep, squeak.

This book just makes me smile. But I can also envision it as a tool for teaching iambic pentameter in a motivating, familiar context. It is easy for 21st century students to dismiss Shakespeare as dusty and difficult, rather than a fine storyteller whose language happens to be unfamiliar. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars puts the storytelling into comfortable foreground, making the language both more understandable and more fun. And imagine challenging students to “translate” something else into similar poetic form—perhaps the lyrics of a current song, or a snippet of a current movie or television show.

Art teachers, or those teaching about Elizabethan arts, might ask students to analyze the characteristics of the “Elizabethan” illustrations in the text. What makes them fit 16th or 17th century styles? What does not? Could students create an illustration of a current object (cell phone, 21st century shoes, McDonalds) in a similar style?

Of course a full study of Shakespeare requires understanding of Elizabethan history and context, but perhaps links to current contexts—and even those “far far away”—can foster both understanding and creative thinking.

PS Just in case you didn’t read all the way down to the comments, here’s a link to the Educators’ Guide to William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. It contains helpful information on the language, Shakespearean references in the book, and more.

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