Novel Review: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: The Empire Striketh Back

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: The Empire Striketh Back

Ian Doescher brings everything he learned from his first William Shakespeare-ian adaptation, Verily, A New Hope, and gives the film most Star Wars fans cite as their all-time favorite the enjoyably rousing adaptation it deserves in William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: The Empire Striketh Back.

One of the best aspects of this series so far has been how it expands the motivations and inner thoughts of all the classic characters in all the classic scenes, adding an extra layer the movies can’t, by using asides and monologues. No one benefits from this more than Lando Calrissian (or ‘Lando of Calrissian,’ in the novel), as we get a clearer picture on how his betrayal weighs negatively on him and how those feelings influence him to quickly turn around and assist his old friend, despite it being too little, too late. It’s easy to dismiss his clear lack of motivations while watching the film, but I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear what the asides Doescher gives Lando uncovered until getting to read them, adding some much needed layers to the character. Lando isn’t the only one who benefits from the asides and monologues, as even the fun work started with R2’s non-beeping inner monologues in Verily, A New Hope continues here, while Han and Leia’s thoughts about their budding feelings for each other, among many other monologues, add informative, hilarious, and often honest perspectives from the characters about the proceedings we all know so well.

Empre Striketh Back Artwork

Adding to the humor already inherit in the source material for Empire Striketh Back, Doescher gives some surprising characters/creatures moments you’ll never forget: a lament from the wampa, the AT-AT’s get chatty, the space slug almost makes you feel bad for him, and the ugnaughts sing a cheery tune, all providing some of the best moments of unexpected humor in the piece. As much as I enjoyed their bits, my favorite random addition had to be the two guards in Cloud City who pass judgment on the building sensibility of having giant chasms in every important building; Minor but eloquently put critique!

Doescher changes up some of the dialogue from the usual iambic pentameter in entertaining ways, giving Yoda haiku-style lines while introducing prose for Boba Fett’s dialogue. They don’t break the flow at all, but instead help add some variety to all the rhyming. In ESB‘s ‘Afterword’ section, Doescher goes onto explain how he arrived at the decision to write in haiku for Yoda, partly due to the Jedi Master’s “eastern sensibilities,” and that Boba Fett gets prose dialogue as a way to signal a caste change. He even addresses how he took one of Verily, A New Hope‘s criticism to heart and made changes for The Empire Striketh Back, making even the ‘Afterword’ worth a read.

Here are a few other things:

  • Remember the song Leia and Chewie sing after Han is frozen in carbonite? Me neither, but after reading it here, now I really want to hear it.
  • The artwork, though still sparse, is absolutely excellent, giving us a look at how a production in Shakespeare-ian times would’ve handled some of the scenes.


This William Shakespeare-ized version of The Empire Strikes Back is well worth any fan’s time, as it expands upon the classic film in new, exciting, and often humorous ways you’d least expect, helping to prove why this series is anything but a cute novelty gift and actually an important new way to appreciate the saga.

+ Deeper character motivations

+ Enjoyably quick read

+ Humorous

Ryan is Mynock Manor’s Head Butler. You can follow him on Twitter @BrushYourTeeth. You can follow the website @MynockManor.

Verily, A New Hope