Thursday, March 31, 2016

Review: William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was brilliant. I've discussed this work several other times on my blog, but I truly feel that the Shakespeare-esque lines really elevated the story of A New Hope. It brought the characters to a deeper and more fleshed out place, which is difficult to do since the characters are already pretty fleshed out in my mind.

The novelty of this book drew me in initially, but there is also some beautiful lines, and that is what kept me reading. Ian Doescher mixed the dialogue of Star Wars with some of the most famous lines from Shakespeare and someone who is well-read will get a chuckled out of this book every time they notice a line from Romeo and Juliet, or Macbeth, or Richard III.

I am looking forward to reading William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Luke Skywalker -vs- Henry V

I wish this Iframe was larger, so you could really see the document without the scrunch, but oh well. This compare and contrast exercise wasn't nearly as fruitful and I expected. Yes Luke Skywalker uses a few lines that could compare to Henry's speech, but it is minimal. Both speeches are about diving into battle. I enjoyed the play on words used in Luke's speech, "trench" instead of "breach." Which, a trench is really a type of breach, so it totally works.

Henry uses his men's fathers as the motivation for his men to fight, and discusses how the men in his army are the "noblest English." They need to fight to prove their heritage. To show the French the mettle with which they are made. On the other hand, Luke uses the pilot's lost comrades and the people of Alderaan, all of whom were killed, to inspire the other X-Wing pilots.

At the end of Luke's speech he also uses a line that is very similar to another line from King Henry V: "We three, we happy three, we band of brothers." This comes from Act IV of King Henry V from the Saint Crispin's day speech: "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers." Luke changes the word "few" to "three" but it is the same line.

And that, once again, is the beauty of this book. Doescher is wonderful at adding in all those little touches. This book appeals to Star Wars nerds, but even more so, to Shakespeare nerds. Because I doubt that many Star Wars fans who read this book picked up on all of the little subtle lines within the text. Unless you are very well-versed in Shakespeare you are going to miss things.

The moral: read more Shakespeare!

Wait a minute, did I see Christian Bale in that clip? Batman fought on Saint Crispin's day!?

Friday, March 18, 2016

Another Short Hiatus

Next week is Spring Break for academia. You probably saw this coming. So, Mr. Barbaric Yawp will be taking a needed rest from blogging. Trust that we will return with more discussion of literature next week. Take care.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

William Shakespeare's Star Wars Rapid Fire

I may have milked this book too much. I've been writing about this awesome book for weeks now and so I figure that I will post one final rapid fire post where I discuss several lines from the play and then put an end to this book.


                    That number seven shall our freedom mean.
                    But only on of seven shall we need.
                    I fear those numbers--seven and then one--
                    Do something dangerous portend. But why?
          (5)     Our company is only six, unless
                    There were another join'd unto us here.
                    Then were we seven, yet what means the one?
                    O! Strangely sweeps the thought into my mind:
                    I have a feeling through the Force that ere
          (10)  We leave this place, some seven shall we be.
                    Yet one shall stay behind as sacrifice.
                    Thus seven and thus one: the numbers tell
                    The story that herein shall soon be told.

It might be because we just read Gloucester's speech in King Lear the other day, but I hear some echoes of those same sentiments here in Obi-Wan's speech. Obi-Wan feels fate tugging on him and believes that destiny is calling for him to sacrifice himself for the party. And because Obi-Wan believes in fate (or the Force or whatever) he will go through with it.

OFFICER 1     [through comlink:] But what hath happen'd?

                                                  --'Tis no matter, Sir--
                    A slight malfunction of the weapons here.
                    But all is well, and we are well, and all
                    Within are well. The pris'ners, too, are well,
                    'Tis well, 'tis well. And thou? Art thou well?

This passage made me laugh. It pays such wonderful homage to the movie, but amplifies the comedy in Han Solo's answer to the officer through the comlink. The repetition of the word "well" makes this happen. Over and over again Han keeps saying "well," and each time it just adds to the final punchline: "Art thou well?" Like Han Solo really cares. This was just perfect for this character.

But now that I have been looking back through this book, I think that I have one more post to get out of this. I want to compare one of Luke Skywalker's speeches to the original Shakespeare from Henry V. I think it will provide some good fodder for my thinking. So, until then...

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Finding Terrific Writing in Unusual Places: William Shakespeare's Star Wars--Vader's Turn

I can't get enough of William Shakespeare's Star Wars. As I have been working my way through it, I have found myself reading with pen in hand so I can mark the passages that are truly beautiful. This time a line from the greatest of villains: Dark Vader.


                                                        --Distract'd is my mind,
               But through its cloudy haze the reason comes:
               Unless I am in error, someone here
               Has come. I have not felt this presence since
     (5)     The days that are but dark in memory.
               This presence I have known sine I was young,
               This presence that once call'd me closest friend,
               This presence that hath all my hopes betray'd,
               This presence that hath turn'd my day to night.
     (10)   This awful presence here must be,
               So shall I to this presence violence 

I love the heavy-handed use of the "presence" in this passage. This choice in diction helps the reader feel the ominous spirit that is hanging over Vader, almost like Obi-Wan has already died and haunts Vader like a ghost. The word hangs on the passage like a shade, creating this gloomy atmosphere. A beautiful passage.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Finding Terrific Writing in Unusual Places: William Shakespeare's Star Wars

No analysis this time, just the beauty of some lines from this outstanding book.


     Now I am split in twain by Fate's sharp turns.
     Two paths: the one toward adventure leads,
     The other taketh me back to my home.
     I have, for all my life, long'd to go hence.
     And now this Obi-Wan hath reason giv'n
     Why I should leave my Tatooine and fly
     Unto the stars. Aye, he hath told me of
     The pow'rful Force. And yet, another force
     Doth pull me home: the force of duty and
     Responsibility. I would go hence,
     Would fly today and ne'er look back again,
     Except Beru and Owen are my true
     And loyal family. 'Tis settled, then,
     I stay on Tatooine until the time
     When I may leave with clear, unfetter'd soul.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Finding Terrific Writing in Unusual Places: William Shakespeare's Star Wars

Another wonderful aside from William Shakespeare's Star Wars. This time from Luke:

                    Unbidden doth adventure come, yet here
                    I stand, prepar'd to rise and welcome Fate.
                    The twisting strands she threads we must but trail,
                    For 'tis the wire that leadeth us through life.
          (5)     Fate's hand hath plac'd me here on Tatooine
                    And now she beckons onward to th' abyss.
                    Now o'er adventure's great abyss I perch--
                    Above all time, above the universe,
                    Above the rim of chance and destiny--
          (10)   And sister Fate doth dare me look in.
                    And there--aye there!--I find my happiness.
                    I peer therein, embrace my Fate--and blink.
                    Come, life! For I am ready now to live.

Such depth this adds to Luke's character. We know that he craves adventure, but he doesn't get to truly express this other than through his passing comments and his facial expressions. But this is so beautiful. I love how Luke calls Fate a she, that is perfect. In line 6 he beings comparing the fact that he is about to launch into his adventure to him looking over a cliff, off into an abyss, preparing to jump in. This metaphor is simply wonderful for what is about to happen. Luke does indeed jump off into the abyss and falls flat on his face at first. Finally I want to talk about the last line: "Come, life! For I am ready now to live." Hot dang! I love it. Luke Skywalker truly hasn't lived up till this point. At the beginning of Episode IV he is simply hanging around. He has a destiny that is not being fulfilled and he feels this tug on him; Fate is calling him, beckoning him, and he desires to answer the call. To move forward through the clouded darkness and discover the mettle that is within himself. Jump off, Luke! Jump!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Finding Terrific Writing in Unusual Places: William Shakespeare's Star Wars

My mother gave me the boxed set of these books, by Ian Doescher, which I thought was a wonderful gift. I love Star Wars and I love Shakespeare. I thought they would be a fun read, but probably not have a lot of substance to them. They sat on my self for a least a year, but recently I have been preparing a How to Speak Yodish lesson plan to help prepare my students for reading Shakespeare and I decided to give them another look--maybe it would be a fun addition to my lesson. Boy was I surprised. There are some beautiful lines in this sucker, and I absolutely love how the Shakespearean language elevates the story of Star Wars. So, I believe that I will be spending some time looking at beautiful lines from this trio of books.

First, let's look at a line from C-3PO in Act I, scene iv:

               Malfunctioning small fool!
               'Tis all his fault. He trick'd me so that I
               Should go this way. But he shall not fare well.
               O gods above, why have I once again
     (5)     Been short with R2, sending him away?
               I trust he knoweth well I hold him dear,
               Though in his presence oft my speech is cruel.
               'Tis words that do betray my better self
               When harshly they express my droidly rage.
     (10)   And yet for protocol I'm made, and must
               With words fulfill my task. So then 'tis true
               That words are both my ruin and my strength.
               And yet--although I find myself adrift
               And lost within a speechless sea of sand--
     (15)   This word is true if ever words have truth:
               Forever lost I'd be should I lose him.

I love the depth that this soliloquy adds to C-3PO's character. In the films you get the sense that 3PO both loves and hates R2-D2, but it is hidden behind the comic relief that those two characters provide throughout the movies. Because C-3PO is able to express his feelings here he is able to become a much fuller character. He doesn't quite understand why he rails on R2 so much. He "hold[s] him dear, / Though in his presence oft my speech is cruel," and he doesn't understand why. He wonders why he is so mean to someone he loves so much, someone he calls a friend and a companion. Someone who would cause him to be "Forever lost" if he should lose his friendship. 

The other part of this soliloquy that really adds to 3PO's character is these lines: "And yet for protocol I'm made, and must / With words fulfill my task. So then 'tis true / That words are both my ruin and my strength." Such a beautiful thought for C-3PO. The skill that defines him, the skill that he is best at, is also his curse. He is really good at talking, but often talking gets him into trouble. He is mean to his friend because he is programed to be. He cannot change who he is, but desperately wants to.

Who knew that C-3PO was such a round and conflicted character?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Darkness abounds

One of my colleagues gave me a book today, Trigger Warnings, by Neil Gaiman (signed no less) and I started reading the introduction while my Freshman were participating in individual choice reading and a quote caught my eye:
"The monsters in our cupboards and our minds are always there in the darkness, like mold beneath the floorboards and behind the wallpaper, and there is so much darkness, and inexhaustible supply of darkness. The universe is amply supplied with night."
First, Gaiman is a master of  language--such beautiful imagery--but this quote really got me thinking. The world is full of darkness, around every corner, in the news, in our movies and television shows. It is so true when he states that "The universe is amply supplied with night." This effects our literature as well. Our books are full of inky dark because we write about what we know. Our literature doesn't normally end wrapped up with perfect "happily ever after bows." For many students in my AP Literature and Composition classes this is bothersome. They want Gatsby to get the girl in the end. They want Okonkwo to turn out all right in the end. They want Kurtz to be this amazing person when Marlow finally reaches him.
But, unfortunately, that is not the case in most of classical literature. These stories of "night" are classics for that reason. They look at reality and provide the reader with a mirror. We don't need magic mirrors all the time, we need the reality of the situation to better equip us to deal with similar problems when we are presented with them in the real reality.

I blame Disney for this. Well, not just Disney, but our bubble wrapped society that has in more recent years decided that we need to sugar coat and safety strap everything. The shows my children read are tediously filled with stories and characters that always have happy endings. In these worlds there are no consequences and the darkness never prevails. But I am sorry, little ones, that simply is not true. The world is a harsh place and it will trip you and then spit on you after you've fallen down. I really think that it is healthy to read, listen to, and watch stories that do not necessarily have happy endings. If we want to raise well-rounded kids who are able to navigate this world, then we must. If we neglect this duty we are setting our children up to fail and repeat the mistakes of history.

George R. R. Martin and The Song of Ice and Fire novels (Game of Thrones) is a perfect example of this. I never threw a Harry Potter book across the room when I was reading those novels, which was not for very long, I only got through book 3. But I was never worried about Harry. I knew that he would get into trouble, but never enough trouble that he wouldn't be fine after the affair. But, with Game of Thrones, I had one of the most evocative reading experiences of my life. (I certainly hope that this is not a spoiler anymore, since the book has been out for so long, and then the extremely popular tv show had this happen in season one. If you care that much about spoilers, then read the book, or watch the show!) When Ed Stark was beheaded, I threw my copy of the book across the room. I was so angry because how dare he (Martin) kill my favorite character, the nerve! And then I distinctly remember rushing across the room to pick up the book again because I needed to reread that section to make sure I hadn't imagined it. But, yes, he sure had. George R. R. Martin had killed my favorite character. There was no happy ending. And yet, I rated that book very highly--a 9 or 10. Which for me is something. I don't rate many books that highly. The book was marvelous and it didn't need a happy ending. It was reality. Often the evil of this world prevails.

It is a coincidence that I read this directly after my students finished a blog post asking why humans love tragedy. This post touches on that same idea. It isn't just that we love tragedy and the darkness, we need them. I hope that this current generation understands this. They will live more adjusted lives if they can learn this lesson early.