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Replies | Post Reply | Shakespeare Queries From Genuinely Interested Students 3.15.97: Top | Help

Hamlet vs. The Lion King

I've FINALLY finished my Hamlet vs. Lion King essay, I hope you still want it. I fear it's not as good as it should be, but I've had a terrible time trying to fit research hours into my schedule. I've not had a fun two weeks! If you have any response, negative or positive, I'd appreciate hearing from you.
Well, hear you go, don't say I didn't warn you about my horrible writing skills.

Kari Allan March 19, 1997
Hamlet vs The Lion King

It has been said by many intelligent and informed people that Disney's The Lion King is a children's version of Shakespeare's Hamlet. There are certainly many parallels between the two stories, and even in the actual dialogue. Both are the story of a young man who is torn apart by the early demise of his father. An uncle takes over the thrown that should rightly belong to the young prince, and both of the tragic heroes overcome their own flaws and uncertainties to take back their thrones for the benefit of their countries. The similarities between the storylines and the ways they are portrayed, especially on screen, is incredible. The three biggest parallels of the stories are the presence of death images and symbolism, the actions of the secondary characters, and the development of the tragic hero. There are many differences between the stories involving characters, and detailed plot points, but the main storylines are essentially the same.
In the very opening scene of The Lion King Mufasa, the king of the Pridelands confronts his brother Scar. Scar has just missed the presentation of Simba, Mufasa's son who is to be the next king. Scar turns as if to leave and Mufasa stops him by saying "Don't turn your back on me Scar." This is a warning. Scar shoots back "No, perhaps you shouldn't turn your back on me!" This is veiled threat on the king's life. Because the king is never introduced in Hamlet, the audience is left to wonder whether the king had any notice that his brother wanted him dead. There is a parallel to this scene found in Hamlet. Shortly after Hamlet visits his mother and kills Polonius, there is a meeting between him and Claudius. When Hamlet is told he is being sent to England, he affirms that this is a good idea, and the king replies "So is it, if thou knew'st our purposes."(IV, iv, 47) The king is letting it be known that he has it in for Hamlet. It can therefore be accepted that he probably let it be known to Hamlet Sr. that his murder was being pondered. Scar shows how it is in the nature of the truly evil to have their victims know they are going to die. If the victim knows(if only in the mind of the murderer)and does nothing, then that makes them all the more useless, and deserving of death. If they are warned of their death and do nothing, they are weak. Scar and Claudius believe themselves to be stronger mentally than their brothers, and so they believe they would make better kings. Death is a reoccurring theme in The Lion King. The Hyenas, who parallel Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, live in an elephant graveyard, full of skeletons and decaying animals. Scar talks of killing every character in the movie, although he is unsuccessful in killing anyone but Mufasa. Timone and Pumbaa believe Simba to be dead when they first find him. He wishes he was dead, and half-heartedly tries to kill himself. Nala tries to kill Timone and Pumbaa before she knows who they are. Last of all the death themes, when Simba comes back home after Scar has been in power, the entire Pridelands appears to be dead. There are no animals left, there is no water, the vegetation is all dead, and there is nothing but sand and rock. The appearance of the Pridelands reflects the heart of Scar. Dead. This is the same as the state of Elsinore reflecting the heart of Claudius. The partying that goes on destroys the image of Denmark. The rest of the world no longer respects the people of Denmark, and in some respects, they might as well be dead considering the consequences of a bad public image. Claudius parties to forget his sins. Claudius is dead inside.
Mufasa and Hamlet Sr. were such good people that they could never really be killed. This is proven by their ghosts. While Scar and Claudius do evil things because they are dead inside and so can only see their brothers' success as a threat, Mufasa and Hamlet Sr. even come back from the dead to right the wrongs of the world. Both of the kings visit their sons and give advice that sets them into action. After seeing their sons lose their courage and strength, they take personal offense in their inactivity. Mufasa says to his son, " You have forgotten me... You have forgotten yourself and so you have forgotten me. You are more than what you have become. Remember... remember... remember..." This is essentially the same speech that Hamlet Sr. gives his son in the closet scene. Both of the princes seem to forget their purposes as they get further away from the pain of their father's death. Hamlet Sr. and Mufasa have as much in common as their successors do. Scar and Claudius are the most evil of men because they want power and are willing to stomp on anyone who gets in the way of their goals. After the murder of the original king, both seem to have been affected to their core by the mentality required to kill. Neither attempts to kill on their own again. Both rely on the stupidity of others to get the job done. Scar repeatedly enlists the hyenas to murder Simba, and Claudius relies on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to take Hamlet to the leaders of England to end his life. The hyenas and R&G are both bad choices because the princes are not killed in either circumstance. In Hamlet, Hamlet is too smart to be outwitted, in The Lion King, thehyenas are just too stupid to kill Simba.
Hamlet and Simba are near perfect examples of tragic heroes. Both are tested to the extent of their inner strength and faith in the triumph of good. Simba was shown high moral standards by his father. He was very upset with himself after he disobeyed his father as a cub. After Scar blames Mufasa's death on him, Simba falls into a deep depression. He leaves the pride and wanders into the forest, wanting to die. Timone and Pumbaa rescue him by carrying him into the shade when he faints from the heat of the sun and his only desire is to keep going until he dies. Hamlet contemplated suicide as well, but for both the determination within them to live won out. Simba gets grows up and the audience can see that even though he's living in the jungle, he still has an aristocratic grace about him. His high morals are deep rooted. Timone and Pumbaa are raw and uncut characters. They emphasize Simba's class. Like Hamlet, Simba tends to need to be on his own a lot to reflect. He also tends to go off when he is upset or remembers his father. He tends to blame himself for all the problems that occur to everyone around him. After the visitation from his father, Simba is moved to action. He is determined to take back the Pridelands from Scar and restore them to their former beauty. He is shocked by the state he finds it in. All of these thoughts, actions and emotions are parallel to the thoughts and emotions of Hamlet throughout his play. When Simba finds out for sure that Scar killed Mufasa, he feels the final motivation required to save himself and kill Scar. Even Scar's "allies" turn against him.
There are many differences to be found in Hamlet and The Lion King, but they tend to be insignificant. There is no dominant presentation of the relationship between Simba and his mother, Sarabi; there are little or no sexual innuendoes in the movie; Simba is crowned king and the Pridelands return to there original greatness. Disney was able to retain all the conflict of emotion that Hamlet felt and still create a storyline and characters that would appeal to children. This extended the vast audience that Shakespeare appeals to. Every important aspect of the movie whispers of Hamlet. There is even an allusion made by Timone that points to Shakespeare. "What's in a name?" It's not from Hamlet but it's Shakespeare. Both Hamlet and Simba find themselves and do great things for their countries because of that. The answer in defiance the very essence of tragedy..."we know what we are, but know not what we may be."

Posted by Kari on March 20, 1997 at 22:02:45


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Replies | Post Reply | Shakespeare Queries From Genuinely Interested Students 3.15.97: Top | Help