Thursday, March 28, 2019

William Shakespeare’s Jedi The Last, Star Wars Part The Eighth by Ian Doescher (2018) Book Review

Star Wars and Shakespeare are two passions of mine. Except that Star Wars really no longer is, because Disney killed it with that atrocious, money-grabbing scheme called The Force Awakens. That was the end of Star Wars for me. Disney killed my passion, as it kills everything. Disney is the destroyer of good things. So I haven’t seen any of the Star Wars films released since then, including The Last Jedi. However, I’ve been so thoroughly enjoying Ian Doescher’s series of Star Wars Shakespeare adaptations that I still wanted to read his version of The Last Jedi, titled William Shakespeare’s Jedi The Last, Star Wars Part The Eighth. And I was curious what I would make of it, not having seen the film and so not being familiar with its plot or new characters (what the hell’s a porg?).

As with the other books (and with Shakespeare’s plays), Jedi The Last is divided into five acts, and is delivered in iambic pentameter (something I always find impressive). The Chorus delivers the prologue. Ian Doescher works a lot of Shakespeare’s lines into this book. For example, in the first scene Poe says, “If ‘twould be done, ‘twere well it were done quickly” (p. 19), a slight variation on Macbeth’s “If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well/It were done quickly.” Perhaps my favorite speech in all of Shakespeare’s work is Macbeth’s “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech. Doescher includes a playful take on part of that speech, having Rey say, “It is a tale told by me, full of sound/And fury, signifying ev’rything” (p. 26). He also has Kylo use a large chunk of Lady Macbeth’s famous speech: “Come, spirits/That tend on mortal thoughts, unmake me here,/And fill me from the crown to the toe full/Of direst cruelty” (p. 29). Of course, “unsex” wouldn’t have worked in this scene, so it is changed to “unmake.” Leia uses a bit from the end of Twelfth Night when she says, “To light her homeward way – an apple, cleft/In two, is not more twin than these two beacons” (p. 36).

A particular stroke of genius is giving the words of Polonius to C-3PO: “This business is well ended, I believe./My noble captain, to expostulate/What deference should be, what duty is,/Why day is day, night is night, time is time,/Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time –/Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,/And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,/I will be brief” (p. 56). Perfect! Kylo refers to Hamlet when he says “So weak that he may lose the name of action” (p. 59). A character named DJ (you’re listening to Cool FM) speaks some of Edmund’s lines from King Lear: “Why bastard? Wherefore base? Now, gods, stand up/For bastards!” (p. 124). Kylo also borrows from King Lear: “Thou camest, Rey, from nothing – nothing art thou,/Thy root is nothing, yea, and nothing comes/From nothing” (p. 133). With there being a character named Rose in this story, it was inevitable that we would get the “rose by any other word” line from Romeo And Juliet. Doescher chooses the poor Q1 reading of “by any other name,” but that actually makes more sense in this context: “Fine lass, a Rose by any other name/Would never smell as sweet as thou, dear friend” (p. 153). One of the best choices is giving Prospero’s speech to Luke: “Now my charms are all o’erthrown,/And what strength I have’s mine own,/Which is most faint” (p. 161).

One of the major problems with The Force Awakens was that it simply lifted stuff from the original trilogy and fed it to the fans again as if it were a new meal. Apparently The Last Jedi does the same thing. While being trained as a Jedi, Rey feels herself drawn to a tree? Geez. And there is a scene where Rey tells Kylo he doesn’t have to hand her over to his lord, that she senses the conflict within him, as Luke said to Darth Vader on Endor. Then later BB-8 executes a surprise attack on troopers from within an AT-ST, just as Chewbacca did in Return Of The Jedi. Come on! The plot (and this is obviously not the fault of Ian Doescher) is rather awful, with lots of idiotic little moments like some gambler mistaking BB-8 for a slot machine. What, he never encountered a droid before?

Again, I didn’t see the movie, so I can’t swear to it, but I am guessing the scene with the two troopers speaking of events and powers beyond their normal scope was not in it. Ian Doescher has added similar scenes to previous volumes in this series, and these are always among the most enjoyable of the books. He uses this scene to sort of explain one of the more ridiculous plot twists of the story, that Luke Skywalker can make himself appear in one place while actually being in another. In the scene, Trooper 2 has read a book about Jedi and learned about that power from his reading. By the way, he has Trooper 2 speak a line that Falstaff says in The First Part Of King Henry The Fourth: “The better part of valor is discretion” (p. 123).

Ian Doescher clearly has a lot of fun with these books, and finds inspiration at times from places other than Shakespeare’s works. For example, he dips into Monty Python territory when he has Kylo say: “‘Tis but a scratch. Aye, just a flesh wound, this” (p. 27). And he refers to John Donne’s famous poem, having Poe say “Therefore,/Send not to know for whom the bell doth toll – /It tolls for me” (p. 38). Perhaps the most enjoyable digression from Shakespeare is the Codebreaker’s speech in which he refers to every James Bond film in the order in which they were released (skipping the first Casino Royale, and brilliantly putting Never Say Never Again in parentheses): “(Methinks thou ought to ne’er say ne’re again.)/A double! Ha, view two! A killing I/Now make. Yea, I shall roll the living daylights/Out of these dice, no lie. Sense to kill I’ve,/For with a golden eye comes golden sight” (p. 73).

William Shakespeare’s Jedi The Last, Star Wars Part The Eighth was published in 2018 by Quirk Books.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Shakespeare References in The Love Letter

Sometimes I’m surprised when I find a Shakespeare reference in a certain book. Not this time. The Love Letter, a novel by Cathleen Schine, centers on a woman who owns a book store, so I was fully expecting at least one reference to Shakespeare. There are two. The first is a reference to Shakespeare himself, not a specific play: “He felt a surge of giddy, shameless pleasure, garrulous and expansive, as if he were on stage, as if his voice boomed magnificent lines, Shakespeare, Chekhov, Kaufman and Hart” (p. 105). The second reference is to Shakespeare, as well as (sort of) to Hamlet: “She had named her store Horatio Street Books out of nostalgia for her last address – and because it had a slight Shakespearian ring to it” (p. 201).

The Love Letter was published in 1995. The edition I read was published in 1999.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Shakespeare Reference in Crime And Juvenile Delinquency

I read books on a wide variety of subjects. One thing they all seem to have in common is Shakespeare. Yesterday I read Crime And Juvenile Delinquency, a book in the Problems Of American Society series, edited by Gerald Leinwand. And there was a reference to The Merchant Of Venice. In a piece titled “A Cop Looks At Juvenile Delinquency,” Albert Deutsch writes, “The old police insistence on a pound of flesh for juvenile misconduct, bawling juveniles out and locking them up have not accomplished any favorable results” (p. 112).

Crime And Juvenile Delinquency was published in 1968 by Washington Square Press, a division of Simon & Schuster.