Discover what force ties Star Wars and Shakespeare together
If you have not already heard, everything is a remix. There is original creativity that helps make messages more beautifully impactful than ever before, but almost everything can be traced back to another story in human entertainment. It still takes tremendous skill, dedication, and originality to make use of the creative remix.
Making use of remix does not make any book or movie less valid (because EVERYONE has done it intentionally or not). Most of the time, remix makes messages deeper and more relatable than it would be without it.
…So what does this have to do with Star Wars?
George Lucas has been very open about the intentional remix he used to create Star Wars. Before Star Wars, Lucas studied the works of Joseph Campbell. Campbell worked in comparing mythology and religion throughout human history. Campbell, himself, has also connected major points of his findings with that of Star Wars.
Campbell’s theory of the monomyth states that all mythic narratives are a variation of a single great story–much like that of The Hero’s Journey. This theory is discussed in his books such as The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Lucas structured Star Wars to fit this single great story, and he also drew great influences from Flash Gordon and films of Akira Kurosawa.
WARNING! STAR WARS AND SHAKESPEARE SPOILERS AHEAD!
A lot of Shakespeare’s work also follows this monomyth perfectly, so of course, there should be some noticeable comparisons between that and Star Wars, right? Let’s (finally) dive into some examples.
1. Duel similarities between Star Wars and Shakespeare
Duels are a great way to move plot along and to settle conflict—between others and between oneself.
- In Romeo and Juliet, we see an enraged Romeo duel Tybalt. This takes place after Romeo’s close friend and mentor, Mercuitio, was murdered by Tybalt. During this duel, we see Romeo lose sense of himself, and he kills Tybalt in complete hatred.
- In Return of the Jedi, we see an enraged Luke duel Darth Vader. This takes place after Luke’s close friend and mentor, Obi-Wan, was seemingly murdered by Vader. On top of that, this is when Luke believes his friends’ lives are critically at risk. We also see Luke lose sense of himself as he hatefully attacks Vader and chops his arm off.
Unlike Romeo, Luke regains composure, and Return of the Jedi does not end in tragedy due to the downfall of its main hero, Luke.
2. Parent relations in Star Wars and Shakespeare
Complicated family drama is basically the driving force of Star Wars. Skywalkers, y’know? This is true in multiple Shakespeare plays as well.
- In Hamlet, Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, remarries before the play begins. Hamlet seeks revenge believing in conspiracy, and through this vengeance, causes the death of almost everyone involved. Gertrude dies before she gets a chance to explain her thoughts.
- In Attack of the Clones, Anakin’s mother, Shmi, remarries before the movie begins. Anakin seeks revenge on the Tusken Raiders who killed Shmi. Through this revenge, Anakin is drawn closer to the dark side, and this spirals into the death of almost everyone involved. Shmi dies before she gets a chance to explain her thoughts.
- In A Winter’s Tale, Leontes wrongfully assumed his pregnant wife, Hermione, betrayed him. This led to Hermione dying of a broken heart after giving birth to Perdita. The newborn Perdita is assumed to be dead after the madness of their father killed their mother. However, Perdita was saved and raised in secrecy. In the future, Perdita is told who her real father is, and Perdita is able to save her father from his madness.
- In Revenge of the Sith, Vader wrongfully assumed his pregnant wife, Padmé, betrayed him. This led to Padmé dying of a broken heart after giving birth to Luke and Leia. The newborn Luke and Leia were assumed to be dead after the madness of their father killed their mother. However, they were both saved and raised in secrecy. In the future, Luke and Leia are told who their real father is, and Luke is able to save his father from his madness in Return of the Jedi.
3. Tragic romance similarities between the tragedies
Tragedy is really what makes so many Shakespeare plays and Star Wars films hurt your heart. Knowing there is a clear answer, but watching the heroes fall into tragedy is painful. Every time I watch Revenge of the Sith, I always want it to have a happy ending. That being said…
- In Hamlet, Ophelia drowns after her heartbreak over Hamlet. She sees her future destroyed before her, and in her love for Hamlet. She dies in water surrounded by flowers.
- In Revenge of the Sith, Padmé dies after her heartbreak over Anakin (and democracy, which is like everything she fought for!). She sees her future destroyed before her in the rise of the empire, and in her love for Anakin. At her funeral, she wears a gown very similar to water, and she is decorated in flowers.
- In Romeo and Juliet, the fighting and hatred between two families makes Romeo and Juliet’s love forbidden. Romeo comes from one family, and Juliet comes from the other. Romeo loses himself and becomes banished. In the end, Juliet is believed to be dead, and Romeo dies from this just before Juliet revives. Romeo’s real death kills Juliet, and this tragedy is what brings peace between the two families.
- In The Rise of Skywalker, the fighting between the light and dark side of the force makes Kylo Ren and Rey’s love forbidden. Kylo is on the dark side, and Rey is on the light side. Kylo finds himself and becomes Ben (joins the light side). Rey dies, and Kylo dies reviving her. Rey doesn’t die from this like Juliet, but after this tragedy, there is peace in the galaxy.
There are still so many comparisons to be made between Star Wars and Shakespeare, and mostly, they’re just for fun! Hopefully, this makes you more open to seeing remix as a great creative tool, and it opens your eyes to it being more than just “stealing”.
Feel free to share any similarities you have noticed, and they will be included in a future blog post!