William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return, by Ian Doescher
When I picked this book up at the library I did not see any of its companion volumes, but I did not have the time to look closely. All I had time to do when I looked at this book was to decide whether I thought it would be an enjoyable read and then rush down to check it out before my five minute parking time was up. That is not the sort of leisure reading experience I usually prefer, but in this case the book involved was quite worthwhile of my snap decision. There may be some snap decisions in life one will regret, but this is not one of them. This is a book where it is easy to know whether or not you will enjoy it. Do you like the original Star Wars  trilogy (what is now Episodes Four Through Six)? Do you like Shakespeare’s plays? Do you think it would be awesome if the plot of the Return of the Jedi was written in Shakespearean language and divided into the five act structure of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama? If you answered yes to all of these questions, you will love this book, more than likely. If you like even one of those things you may enjoy this book a great deal.
The fact that this five-act play is around 150 pages or so makes it an easy read. The author really has a grasp on Shakespearean writing, and there are asides and some choruses and some delightfully humorous characterizations of those involved. None of the plot will be surprising to those who remember the movie well–the play itself is a bit more stagey, but it has to be, with all of its stage exits, but there is definitely a feeling of the action of the movie in this screenplay. From the beginning there is a sense of dramatic impulse that moves all the way to the end. There are questions of identity, betrayal, friendship that this play addresses very thoughtfully. In addition, this is a work that was likely greatly improved by virtue of it having been vetted and approved by LucasArts in the period when that company still owned the rights to the Star Wars franchise. This is a work of quality, clearly not mere fanfiction, and that is something to be appreciated and enjoyed.
There are a lot of quirky touches here that worth commenting on, many of which the playwright himself draws attention to for the enjoyment of the reader. For example, R2 D2 speaks in normal English in asides, which draws a strong contrast to his normal beeping and whirring. Yoda talks in haiku, which adds to his mysterious “Eastern” quality, and the Ewoks speak in a sort of ABCA quatrain, which again adds a certain level of interest to the writing. The variety of the writing and the way that the author has manged to find a consistent voice and adapt Star Wars to entirely alien conventions is itself worthwhile on several levels. On one level, this is simply fun to read. On another level, the author clearly has done some serious thinking about form and structure and literary conventions, and on still other levels the Ewoks come off as far more intelligent here than in the movie. Likewise, the emperor comes off particularly badly, almost a motivelessly evil character like Iago. Overall, the play has a feel of Shakespeare’s historical plays, as this is not a pure comedy or tragedy. Whatever type of play one calls it, though, this is definitely an enjoyable piece of work.
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