Review: William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher (Shakespeare’s Star Wars #2)


The saga that began with the interstellar best seller William Shakespeare’s Star Wars continues with this merry reimagining of George Lucas’s enduring classic The Empire Strikes Back.

Many a fortnight have passed since the destruction of the Death Star. Young Luke Skywalker and his friends have taken refuge on the ice planet of Hoth, where the evil Darth Vader has hatched a cold-blooded plan to capture them. Only with the help of a little green Jedi master – and a swaggering rascal named Lando Calrissian – can our heroes escape the Empire’s wrath. And only then will Lord Vader learn how sharper than a tauntaun’s tooth it is to have a Jedi child.

What light through Yoda’s window breaks? Methinks you’ll find out in the pages of The Empire Striketh Back!

This is the second book in William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series. To read my review on the first book, Verily, A New Hope, click here.

If flurries be the food of quests, snow on. When the second volume to William Shakespeare’s Star Wars begins with a adaptation of one of my favourite Shakespeare quotations, it can’t go wrong. In The Empire Striketh Back, the rebels have taken refuge on a icy planet called Hoth. The group is undecided upon the next move and as the Empire is hot on their heels there isn’t much time to dillydallying. Luke wants to find the mysterious Yoda, Han wants to clean his reputation, and the droids… well, they have a lot to say.

The Empire Striketh Back continue is the same style as Verily, A New Hope. Although Doescher has reduced the amount of chorus, the play continues in iambic pentametre. In fact, the only exceptions are Boba Fett, who speaks in prose, and Yoda who’s lines are in haiku. Again, there is an abundance of puns and references to Shakespeare’s own works (an educators guide is provided in the Quirk Books website). Doescher himself thinks that out of the original Star Wars movies, Episode V – Empire Strikes Back is the most Shakespearean of all. It contains romance, betrayal, estranged family relation, etc. Thus it transformed well into the form of a Shakespearean play. However, unlike the movies, the play also gives a voice to creatures and machines such as AT-ATs and the space slug.

I’d say that my Star Wars edutainment is definitely working. Exhibit A: I saw Lego – The Movie last week and actually understood all the references to Star Wars! Plot-wise, the problem in The Empire Striketh Back is that the “big twists” in the story are already common knowledge and thus lose some of their surprise effect. My reaction to the great father-son revelation was just “Oh, this is it”, before I continued reading. As for the sci-fi, the more that I read of this reality, the more I feel out of place; nevertheless, I’m also slowly starting to understand it. To sum it up, I recommend this book and the whole series not only to Star Wars fans, but also to fans of Shakespeare. And yes, I can’t wait for the continuation.


LEIA: [aside] – He kisses by the book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

My review of Verily, A New Hope (#1), The Jedi Doth Return (#3) AND The Phantom of Menace (#4).


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