American author Ian Doescher's Shakespearean twist on the blockbuster film Star Wars is inspiring Canadians to delve into and better understand the works of Britain's Bard of Avon.
William Shakespeare's Star Wars, which hit stores and book shelves in July, is a retelling in Iambic pentameter of George Lucas's epic Star Wars.
Libraries and school boards see the new book, which features Elizabethan illustrations, as a vehicle for encouraging children to read and better understand Shakespeare.
'I’m not trying to pretend I have his genius. Hopefully it’s something that honours Shakespeare.' - Ian Doescher, author of William Shakespeare's Star Wars
Random House of Canada, which distributes the book here, says on its website: "The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays."
Dayna Cornwall, who has English and teaching degrees and works for the Windsor Public Library, called William Shakespeare's Star Wars a "great doorway into Shakespeare."
Shakespeare 'isn't easy'
"I spent time trying to inspire students with the love of Romeo and Juliet. It isn’t easy. They find the whole idea of Shakespeare pretty daunting, that’s the impression we have as a culture," Cornwall said. "But we all know Star Wars so well; it’s not a struggle to know what’s going on. Shakespeare doesn’t have to be all that tough."
"It’s the sort of thing – and a hope for me – that gets high school and college students who are just approaching Shakespeare for the first time ... into Shakespeare," Doescher told CBC News.
Doescher said he got the idea for his book after a whirlwind month of movie-watching, book-reading and festival-going last year. He first watched the original Star Wars trilogy with friends, then read the mash-up book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and went to a Shakespeare Festival in Oregon.
"It was at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival I had the idea to write the book," Doescher said.
He wrote the first act and sent it to Lucas Films.
"They were the ones who came back to me and said, "'We like what you've done so far, but we’d like you to do more. Take it outside the bounds of the movie,’” Doescher recalled. "It was a great gift to me, as a writer."
Doescher, a Portland, Ore., father of two who has loved Star Wars and Shakespeare since childhood, added some soliloquies throughout his book.
"The parts that were hardest to write were the ones that I knew would be under scrutiny," Doescher said. "When you deal with some of the famous lines, how will they be heard and will people like what you’ve done with them, I was sweating bullets."
In his book, memorable lines, such Obi Wan Kenobi's pop culture classic, "these aren't the droids you're looking for," have been translated to, "True it is, that these are not the droids for which thou search'st."
Cornwall called the book "beautiful and intriguing."
"He’s poetically expressing some of the feelings of the movie," she said.
After the book became available in July, the Windsor Public Library immediately ordered three hard copies and an eBook version. On Friday, all three hard copies were on hold.
"I saw it online some months ago and got really excited," Cornwall said. "I personally placed a hold on it when I saw it was in our system."
She finally read the book about a week ago.
"I devoured it," Cornwall said.
Cornwall said Shakespeare fans are "delighted by this kind of thing."
"They see it as a way in for people who don’t know or like Shakespeare all that much," she said.
The Stratford Festival, one of the most respected and acclaimed classical theatres in North America, is aware of the rewrite, but had no comment.
"This is clearly not Shakespeare. This is a guy writing a book called William Shakespeare’s Star Wars," Doescher said. "I’m not trying to pretend I have his genius. Hopefully it’s something that honours Shakespeare."