Stack Overflow: Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Pop Culture

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Stack Overflow: Ian Doescher's William Shakespeare

This week’s Stack Overflow is a bit shorter than usual because it’s been a busy week with the kids: I’ve had a visit to the DMV, a trip to the orthodontist, and a birthday party, plus I did manage to go see Avengers: Endgame (no spoilers here!) with my wife. I did, however, manage to read the two latest Shakespearean spins on movies by Ian Doescher.

In case you aren’t familiar already, Ian Doescher is the bard behind the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series, which reimagines the films as plays, complete with dialogue in iambic pentameter, asides to the audience, and a lot of clever jokes along the way. Since Jim Kelly’s review of the first book (Verily, A New Hope), Doescher has also tackled the rest of the Star Wars films all the way up to Jedi the Last. I’m sure he’ll be working on The Rise of Skywalker after that film’s release later this year.

This past month, though, he published two more Shakespearean “plays,” this time not in the Star Wars universe: Get Thee … Back to the Future! and Much Ado About Mean Girls, both of which I read this past week. These are the start of a new series called Pop Shakespeare.

We’ll start with Get Thee… Back to the Future, simply because it’s one of my favorite movies. Doescher takes the first film and captures all of the scenes vividly: as I read the book, I could easily see them playing out in my mind, too. He takes some fun liberties with the text, often inserting additional dialogue (or asides to the audience). For instance, Einstein the dog gets a few “Woof!” lines in the play—the footnotes (also in iambic pentameter) helpfully translate his speech into English, and we get to see the first trip in the DeLorean from his perspective. Biff’s go-to insult “butt-head” is here turned into “arse-pate,” and Marty’s situation with his parents in the past really seems to fit as a Shakespearean drama. I also love the inclusion of a second Marty (from Back to the Future II) who appears briefly during Th’Enchantment ‘Neath the Sea dance, just briefly, as well as an added conversation between two policemen debating the nature of time travel that gave me an unexpected perspective on the films.

My wife read Much Ado About Mean Girls before me, because I had not actually seen the film yet. We remedied that last weekend, and watched it for the first time, with my older kids. Being thus caught up, I dove into Doescher’s version. For this one, he paired up each of the main characters with a particular character from an actual Shakespeare play … though I’ll admit that many of those references probably went over my head. I did, however, enjoy the occasional references drawn from other sources, like one of Forrest Gump’s famous lines given to Karen. Since the movie included a lot of voiceover from Cady, these translated into a lot of asides in the play.

If you’re fans of these two films, you’ll likely enjoy these versions of the stories. And don’t worry if you’re a Shakespeare newbie: the back of the book also includes a reader’s guide that explains some of the basics, like iambic pentameter, rhyming couplets, and anaphora, along with a few examples of each from the book.

I’m hoping we’ll get to see more of Marty McFly—after all, the first film ends on a cliffhanger!

So, what are you waiting for? Get thee back to the past:

View wonders! On our stage we do arrive—
E’en late October, nineteen eighty-five.

Disclosure: I received review copies of these two books.

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