- William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return
- by Ian Doescher
- published by Quirk Books (2014)
- Roar Score: 4/5
So it comes to this: the last of Ian Doescher’s Shakespeare Star Wars trilogy. If you’ve read the first two books, then you know what to expect here. More of the same, plus a few surprises.
—O, that laugh, it works me woe.
‘Tis too familiar in my memory,
And like a chime from Hell’s forsaken bells
Doth ring most evilly within mine ears.
Much more flowery and eloquent than “I know that laugh,” right?
You know the story here, so there’s no point in recapping the plot. So let’s dive in and look at the presentation.
As in the previous books, Doescher doesn’t shy away from using other languages when necessary—and he usually uses them to great effect. Chewie continues to roar, and R2 continues to beep and whistle in front of others but speaks in English to himself. (In the Afterword, Doescher finally declares him the fool—in the Shakespearean sense—of the trilogy.)
Bib Fortuna, Jabba, and the Ewoks all speak their native languages. Indeed, the Ewoks are further distinguished from other characters by speaking in quatrains with an AABA rhyme scheme (and 5-4-4-4 syllable measures). In addition, the Rancor sings in lines of 7 syllables.
I’m not enough of a Shakespeare scholar to know how he used all of these different structures in his plays, but Doescher puts them to work marvelously here. The various speech patterns not only lend unique personalities to specific characters but also “disrupt” the iambic pentameter enough to keep the reader engaged.
‘Tis well: from furry mouths come good ideas.
Kudos to Doescher for keeping Leia as a strong female and not relegating her to the role played by so many female Shakespearean characters. Indeed, her speech here might be the highlight of the book:
—What role shall I play in this? I shall
Not stand aside and let them fight for me.
I am no fragile damsel to be sav’d,
But have, since I was young, fought for myself.
Thus, to my work: to slay the biggest foe—
Thou, Jabba, art for me and me alone!
A highlight of The Jedi Doth Return is Luke’s soliloquy in Act II in which he acknowledges kissing his sister. In this speech, he relates “an ancient tale of Tatooine” about a Tusken Raider, his mother, and their “unnatural” relationship. It is a direct retelling of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, and I sincerely hope that it will be Doescher’s next adaptation.
The Tusken Raider’s mother (i.e., Jocasta) hanging herself from a Bantha’s horn would be worth the price of admission alone.
A hilarious exchange between two royal guards in Act IV is another highlight. It provides some much-needed brevity with original dialogue that mocks the plot of the story. It’s great.
Avaunt, thou scruffy flea-infested imp—
Point not thy spear toward my angry self,
Else thou shalt know the scourge of blaster fire.
Doescher once again repurposes some classic Shakespeare lines/speeches to mostly great effect. Those I caught mainly come from Hamlet, and this is by far the best. It is quite possibly the best “borrowed” quote in the entire trilogy:
O Father, fare thee well where’er thou goest,
And flights of Jedi sing thee to thy rest!
Weaknesses? There are a few scenes that don’t work as well as they could. Also, if you read the entire trilogy in order and back-to-back, the novelty of the format will begin to wear (and possibly grate) after a while.
However, Doescher is certainly to be commended for undertaking this task to begin with. Translating the entire trilogy into iambic pentameter is monumental, and any weaknesses I can point out are inconsequential to what’s accomplished.
As Yoda might say, they are insignificant next to the power of Doescher’s ambition.
The prequel references in this book are thankfully far fewer than in previous books, though there are still mentions of both Naboo and midichlorians. Although, in Doescher’s defense, his inclusion of the latter does include a sly dig at their very existence, as spirit Obi-Wan says,
I never did imagine that, in death,
I would be call’d upon to justify
The words I spoke in life. ‘Twas well I spoke
Not of the midi-chlorians to Luke,
For then he would have endless questions still.
As in the previous two books, Nicolas Delort outdoes himself with the illustrations, and he deserves more recognition that his name in 9-point type on the copyright page.
Verdict? If you like the first two, you’ll like this one. If you didn’t like the previous books, there’s nothing here that will convince you otherwise. I think it rounds out the trilogy nicely, and—like I said—it’s worth owning and reading for the sheer amount of skill and patience it required to create.
Most vile, O trick of Empire’s basest wit.
A snare, a ruse, a ploy: and we the fools.
What great deception hath been plied today—
O rebels, do you hear? Fie, ’tis a trap!