One of the fun things about writing books like the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars trilogy is that in addition to peppering the text with Shakespearean quotes, I felt free to put in some Easter eggs that discerning eyes may or may not find.
In most cases, these were references to pop culture or my own life. Here are my ten favorite references:
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—
And sister Fate doth dare me to look in.
And there—aye there!— I find my happiness.
I peer therein, embrace my Fate—and blink.
The reference is to Friedrich Nietzsche’s Also Sprach Zarathustra. Nietzsche wrote that the Übermensch—the Superman—is the one who stands above the abyss and blinks.
To march to the detention block’s unwise!
To make our way to danger folly ‘tis!
To there present ourselves is passing mad!
To boldly go where none hath gone is wild!
Star Trek rears its head in that last line—my little attempt to join the two universes that often compete unnecessarily.
Now seems it plain to me that Vader doth
Perform the part of docile dog unto
The sick’ning whinny of his Master’s voice…
I would thou join me for a moment full
Of pomp and circumstance.
In this short scene, in which the Death Star destroys Alderaan, we have two quick pop culture references. Leia refers to “his Master’s voice,” nodding to the old Gramophone ad, and Tarkin in turn refers to the Edward Elgar composition “Pomp and Circumstance,” better known as the theme played at every high school graduation ever.
From William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back:
Hast thou a rodent in thy pocket, such
That thou and he are “we”? What meanest thou?
When I was a kid and I used the word “we” when my parents thought I should be saying “I” (as in: “We’re going to go buy me a new video game today, right?”), my dad would often reply: “What do you mean ‘we’? Do you have a mouse in your pocket?” My father isn’t alone in this—it’s a fairly common cultural saying. But I couldn’t resist adding a little tribute to my dad and his sayings here.
If thou couldst ever put thy pride away,
Belike my prejudice would fall aside.
Throughout William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back, Leia and Han talk about his pride and her prejudice—a reference not only to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice but to that first of all mash-ups that helped inspire my Star Wars trilogy: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. (It was harder to work a zombie reference in.)
For neither snow nor ice nor gloom of Hoth
Shall stay my rescue of my greatest friend.
Yes, that is Han reciting a version of the United States Postal Service creed: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
A colt is ridden best by kindly rider.
I know ‘tis true: it worketh ev’ry time.
After the Star Wars movies (and maybe now Dancing with the Stars), I suspect Billy Dee Williams is best known for the Colt 45 commercials in which he appeared during the 1980s and 1990s. Those commercials generally ended with Billy Dee looking at the camera and saying, “Colt 45: it works every time.”
My friend Josh and I used to imagine Lando saying to Leia, “I’m Lando Calrissian, I’m the administrator of this establishment. Won’t you join me over a bottle of Colt 45?” This was a reference I had to work in.
From William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return:
There is an ancient tale of Tatooine,
That tells of Tusken Raider who, through Fate
And circumstance, join’d with his mother in
A bond most strange and quite unnatural.
They liv’d in blissful ignorance of their
Relation until they discover’d it
By chance. And O, what awful times befell!
The Tusken Raider’s mother hang’d herself
Upon a bantha’s horn. The Tusken, in
His agony and grief, pull’d off his mask
And claw’d at his own eyes until they bled,
Then came dislodg’d, and finally pluck’d out.
He fell unto his knees and cried with pain—
Not merely pain to have his eyes remov’d,
But deeper pain that sear’d his very heart.
‘Tis said that though he then could see no more,
He saw more clearly than he ever had.
At night, upon the sands of Tatooine,
His howl may still be heard, a warning to
Those who would break the sacred fam’ly bond
Through passions of the body.
If you remember your high school English class, you recognize this as the story of Oedipus retold in the Star Wars universe, just as Luke has learned that Leia is his sister (and worries about having overstepped family bounds).
You shall for sure discover what is right
And proper, when I blast apart thy frame.
Lo, ‘tis forbidden, Gen’ral Solo, for
E’en droids aren’t masters of divinity.
I like to think I’m not one of those people who went to an Ivy League school and talks about it all the time. That said, I did work a reference to my alma mater into the third book. These four lines are an acrostic: read the letters that start each line of this set of lines between Han and C-3PO. Also, the degree I received as a graduate student was a Master of Divinity (C-3PO’s last line).
—Thy point is made, and I
Shall rest my “ifs” and be at ease. Now, if
Thou shalt come with me, we have both been call’d
To rearrange the chairs upon the deck.
In all three books, I had a great time writing imaginary dialogue between two guards—scenes that do not appear in the movies. Each of these dialogues pokes fun at some aspect of the trilogy. In William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return, the guards are talking about the likelihood (or lack thereof) of a small group of rebels and an indigenous population—the Ewoks—defeating the Empire.
All of that will happen soon, of course, so as the two guards finish their dialogue I have Guard 1 saying, “we have both been call’d to rearrange the chairs upon the deck,” referencing the old saying about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
These ten are just my favorites. There are, of course, many more hidden references to be found—including references to the musicals The Pirates of Penzance and Jekyll and Hyde, Melville’s Moby Dick and Dante’s Inferno, famous quotes from Emily Dickinson and Patrick Henry, The Princess Bride, the Bible, and others.
Happy searching! And may the Force of Easter eggs be with you.
Want more Shakespeare’s Star Wars? GeekyLibrary recently chatted with Ian Doescher about the series.