Countless teenagers of this age grew up watching Disney movies such as Snow White, Hercules, and The Lion King. Disney movies have always been made to carry a meaningful theme that is blinded to children through imaginative characters and plot. There is a vast amount of similarities between characters, plots, and overall themes in different pieces of literature. Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Disney’s The Lion King are two works that greatly resemble one another through the main characters, details of the plot, and an overall theme which are parallel to one another in a variety of ways. The main characters in both literary works are a complex relationship between a son, father, and uncle. In The Lion King, Simba is betrayed by his Uncle Scar and in Hamlet, he is betrayed by his Uncle Claudius as well. Both uncles are responsible for the murder of their brother, otherwise known as the father figure of the son. Both Hamlet and Simba are the sons of Kings which automatically means they inherit the throne.
In The Lion King, Mufasa is the King of the Primelands which resembles King Hamlet, the King of Denmark. In The Lion King, the Hyenas are known to be worshipers to Uncle Scar which is parallel Hamlet’s character Leartes who is Claudius’s partner in crime. When a king dies, it is common that the prince is obligated to take responsibility. In both the play and the movie, Simba and Hamlet run away from their responsibilities after their fathers die. Hamlet escapes through his craziness and eagerness to solve the murder. Simba simply runs away. At one point, both characters are suicidal and are assumed to be dead already. The comic reliefs of The Lion King, Timon and Pumbaa, find Simba and think he is dead but he is really not. In Hamlet, he wonders about life and questions himself saying, “To be, or not to be,”. In the end, both Simba and Hamlet are considered tragic heroes. In the majority of literature, there is an antagonist, or a well known ‘bad guy’ of the plot. The uncles in both the play and movie portray wicked characters. Claudius is seen as a materialistic villain through his actions and Scar is immediately shown to be a dark character through his evil green eyes and long black nails. The colors green and black are physical representations of envy and evil. At the beginning of Hamlet, the King is never introduced so, therefore, the reader is unaware of his appearance or awareness towards his brother’s intentions.
In The Lion King, Mufasa confronts Scar in the opening of the movie by telling him, “Don’t turn your back on me!” His brother responds with a threat saying, “No, perhaps you shouldn’t turn your back on me!”. In both the play and the film, after the Kings are murdered, the uncles take the throne. This major aspect of both stories is filled with jealousy and greed. Everyone wants to be the king because of all the automatic power, wealth and control that is inherited. Hamlet expresses his jealousy and thoughts about Claudius taking the throne by saying, ‘This, an unseeded garden,” in one of his soliloquies to describe Denmark. This description matches the movie when Scar takes over because the land suddenly becomes dry and colorless. After returning to the Primeland, Simba is exposed to lifeless setting after Scar has taken over with no water or animals. One of Scar’s first lines portray his bad intentions when he says, “Life’s not fair, is it?” Both foreshadow a common theme of corruption. Claudius is dead on the inside which is why his intentions destroyed the natural image of Denmark. In The Lion King, at Pride Rock, the “Circle of Life” theme is exposed through color. They tell Simba, “You see, Simba. Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance… we are all connected in the great Circle of Life.” Pride Rock is constantly under the beaming sun and harmony. In Hamlet, Claudius is rudely saying, “… you must know, your father lost a father / That father lost his…,” which lines up with Mufasa’s explanation to Simba saying, “When we die, we become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass.” Both quotes are attached to the circle of life through the simple aspect of a continuous cycle of life and death. In contrast, the most important difference between the play and the film is that The Lion King ends in happiness, which is common in Disney movies, but Hamlet ends with a great tragedy full of death. At the end of Hamlet, the hero is killed in treachery, “O villainy! Ho! Let the door be locked! / Treachery, seek it out!”
In The Lion King, Simba returns, revenge is made, and there is a better future ahead. Even though both stories have completely different endings, they both can look forward to a new beginning for their kingdoms. The hero, or main avenging character, of each story, has made the opportunity of freeing their lands of wicked hands possible by fulfilling their duties as loyal sons. Even though The Lion King is deemed to be a children’s animated movie, it carries great meaning to it that translates Shakespeare’s Hamlet into a new perspective and representations. The characters, plots, and themes remain parallel throughout with few differences. The overall theme of betrayal and revenge will never be expressed in greater tragedies.