Yea verily, the Force is strong with this one

5th July 2013 at 01:00
Star Wars verse set to turn students on to Shakespeare

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be", a warning uttered by Polonius in Shakespeare's Hamlet, has become one of the most famous lines in the history of English literature.

But the advice has been roundly ignored by one author, who has borrowed the Bard's characteristic style of iambic pentameter to retell the story of a more intergalactic cultural phenomenon.

While the idea of William Shakespeare's Star Wars may have literary purists reaching for their lightsabres, US author Ian Doescher hopes his take on the Bard's verse could be used as a prelude to introducing Macbeth, Othello and King Lear to a reluctant younger audience.

"Shakespeare already has a reputation for being rather elite and stodgy," Mr Doescher said. "Young people ... see unfamiliar words like 'fardels' and 'codpiece' ... and just assume they won't be able to do it ... They already know the storyline, so they won't have trouble following what is happening, and reading the book will expose them to iambic pentameter, some of Shakespeare's basic vocabulary and a handful of literary devices."

Fans of the Bard will instantly recognise how some of his most famous quotes have been tweaked to fit a galaxy populated by Jedi, Wookiees and droids.

"Alas, poor stormtrooper, I knew ye not," proclaims Luke Skywalker, before pondering whether his victim was a "man of inf'nite jest or cruelty" in a scene parallel to Hamlet's discovery of the skull of the jester Yorick.

Skywalker gives a stirring speech reminiscent of Mark Antony in Julius Caesar: "Friends, rebels, starfighters, lend me your ears." And there is a clear nod towards Macbeth when his comrade Han Solo asks: "Is this an ast'roid field I see before me?"

The section of the book that Mr Doescher most enjoyed transposing into verse - subtitled "Verily, A New Hope" - was the conversation between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Han Solo, in which Solo says he doesn't believe in "the Force".

"I have a background in theology, so it was natural to turn that scene into an extended metaphor about Han as a lone pilgrim on his own journey of faith in blasters and good luck," he said.

The author said he had been inspired to write the book after reading the parody novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which splices the genteel word of Jane Austen with the zombie horror genre.

He believes teachers could draw on the two parallel worlds to engage young students: "Both are filled with adventure, questions of destiny, comic and dramatic characters, clear ideas about good and evil and big themes like death, loss, justice and so on.

"Both Shakespeare and Star Wars made lasting impacts on English-speaking culture, and bits of both have become part of our everyday vocabulary. I imagine a class might read William Shakespeare's Star Wars before jumping into Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth or Hamlet. I would love to see that happen."

The book was welcomed by Rob Campbell, principal and English teacher at Impington Village College in Cambridgeshire. "Those of us who were brought up with the original films or the re-releases are going to be incredibly excited. If there's enthusiasm from the teachers, you can make most things rock and roll for the students, too," he said.

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