Verily, a New Pop Culture Hope for Classics
A long time ago, in a galaxy not far away, esteemed authors wrote classics like Hamlet and Pride and Prejudice. In the 21st century, appreciation for Shakespeare classic literature and plays has somewhat fallen by the wayside, especially in younger demographics. Young readers often find it difficult to decipher Old English and to relate to classic characters. To combat students’ aversion when teachers utter the word ‘Shakespeare,’ some authors have given classic stories a pop culture twist.
One such author is Ian Doescher, who lovingly turned the original Star Wars scripts into a Shakespearean retelling of the thrilling sci-fi trilogy. Beginning with, Verily, a New Hope, Doescher turned the script for Star Wars: A New Hope into a nerdy English major’s dream. The book follows the structure of a play. There’s a Dramatis Personae page with a character list. The title crawl is in the prologue spoken by the chorus and the play is broken up into five acts. Doescher didn’t stop at the original trilogy. Following the success of the series, he went on to transform the prequels and The Force Awakens into Shakespeare gold.
Shakespeare Striketh Back
There are two ways a reimagining of a classic piece of literature can go—it can either be a loving ode that remains true to the original or a satirical spoof. (Which is not to say that satirical pieces don’t also come from a place of love for the source material.) Shakespeare’s Star Wars is the former.
Every minute detail in these books is a playful and accurate spin on Shakespeare’s body of work. It would have been easy to tack on some “yea, verilys,” change “yous” to “thees,” throw in some “tis’s” and call it a day. Granted, Doescher did do those things. However, he also kept true to Shakespeare’s use of iambic pentameter, did thorough research on accurate dialogue from the time period, and stylistically followed Shakespeare’s literary blueprints.
It takes an incredible amount of skill and research to morph a beloved story seamlessly into an equally-beloved dialect. Doescher manages to pull all of that off and still has time to hide little nuggets of Shakespeare references via dialogue, illustrations, and innuendos that would make the Bard himself blush.
Forsooth, the Classics Do Return
Quirk Books is the bold, and dare I say quirky, publishing house responsible for William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. They’re a prominent force for the melding of pop culture and classic literature. The concept is genius – take two things that don’t always go together and find a way to meld the two into a cohesive unit.
Pop culture fans who run for the hills whenever someone mentions Shakespeare are a lot more likely to pick up William Shakespeare’s Star Wars than Hamlet. They may even change their mind about the Bard and pick up Hamlet after all. The same can be said for Shakespeare fans who scoff at pop culture. They might pick it up out of curiosity and conceive a love for those crazy space rebels against all odds. For those of us who rock the classic literature and pop culture hats? It’s a win-win.
The melding of pop culture and classics don’t end with William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. For instance, Quirk Books released a book with a similar concept called Pop Sonnets. If Princess Leia doesn’t do it for you, perhaps Bardic Backstreet Boys is more your jam. For a more satirical approach to a pop culture and classic mashup, check out Quirk Books’ Pride and Prejudice and Zombies which was adapted for the screen in 2016.
Thy Literature-Mashup Interest Dost Awaken
Quirk Books isn’t the only publishing house to recognize the merit in melding pop culture and classic material. Like Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe is a cornerstone of classic literature. YA writers published a slew of novels that retell Poe classics and honor his works. In particular, Masque of the Red Death, written by Bethany Griffin, is a steampunk rendition of Edgar Allan Poe’s famous work by the same name.
The Nevermore trilogy, a personal, cherished favorite, is a modern take on the mysteries and intrigue surrounding Poe’s death. His essence and writing come alive through a new set of characters, though Poe himself is not a main character. Instead of a reimagining, the series follows the beloved trope of cheerleader Isobel and goth Varen as they’re sucked into the dreamworld repeatedly depicted in Poe’s poetry.
The hauntingly beautiful trilogy is an ode to Poe and his varied body of work. Varen serves as a modern parallel to Poe’s status as a literary genius and his lonely desperation to find meaning and love. Kelly Creagh seamlessly weaves ghostly snippets of Poe’s work and her own gothic poetry through the voice of Varen. The sometimes tragic, sometimes hilarious gothic romance is a great stepping stone for readers to develop a passion for Poe. That being said, I would pay oodles of cash money for a book of poetry written by Creagh—either in her own voice or Varen’s. Or both. Both would be good.
There’s an incalculable number of modern novels and plays that mash up pop culture and classic literature. Chances are, if you google your favorite classic author or your favorite pop culture trope, you’ll find one. However, if it doesn’t exist yet, Quirk Books is always accepting submissions, so get writing!