Where no bard has gone before

In June the Star Wars screenplays were published – oh dear, really?! The difference with this publication is that an intrepid writer has transformed them into Shakespearean verse.

Is this a light sword I see before me? Obi Ben Kenobi – I knew him well…done the obvious jokes, now?

Good.

Despite being very successful no one could say that Star Wars as literature, even as movie writing, was very good. Stories of the actors scoffing at the script and then changing the words to alleviate their embarrassment are quite well known.

This project serves two purposes: it improves a script that needs it, and introduces new readers to Shakespeare. The second aim seems to be more important but I wonder if it will work. The pleasure of Star Wars has been many other things but not the words. It’s a fair guess that the fans of the franchise are not overly critical of dialog and language, as say, the members of the Emily Dickinson society are.

It’s also a fair bet that the words, and there are lots of them in a Shakespeare text, might get in the way, they might be too much. Film adaptations of the plays cut all the talking to fit the film form where pictures do much of the talking. In a play, on a bare stage, the constant flow of words holds the attention, but that might be distracting or irritating to a reader who prefers a product defined in its traditional genre.

Those questions aside there is scope to expand this project into other areas, where, to be euphemistic, the quality of writing has not been overwhelming.

The General Hospital Shakespeare (daytime soap, generally) might be one. Instead of the dead fish expression when being told unexpected news; the actors might talk swiftly:

“tis of no account that the mistress did not relay these alarums upon today’s business, I will to her house and henceforth…”

The Action Adventure Shakespeare would be an alternative to the terse, monosyllabic dialog for which the action genre is known. Imagine the scene as the heroes escape into a twenty minute car chase they are typically grim faced, shouting instructions through gritted teeth. How much more enriching it would be to hear the desperate men talk:

” Go to my lord! There are a hundred pack hounds at our heels already nibbling upon our bowels, we should take flight but not as cowards filled with the souls of geese. Do not tarry!”

It is too easily parodied and that may be the stumbling block with this Star Wars verse. The impetus is authentic but putting Shakespeare and Star Wars together is like cross genre musical jokes, say like bolting country and heavy metal together. The limits of the genre, the definition of what it is and therefore not, are very strict.

Space would be about the final frontier for Shakespeare and I hope the book is a success; at the very least, that some readers discover Shakespeare and explore further.

Guy Cranswick
9th July 2013

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