In honor of getting to see my favorite play of all time, I would like to address a popular myth that absolutely fries me. It is the myth of
"Omg The Lion King is totes a retelling of Hamlet"
I would like to unmask this ridiculous falsehood by replying
"Um no it is not"
And, of course, providing evidence to that effect. So here we go.
WARNING: SPOILERS. I assume you know the story of The Lion King and don't mind some ruined "surprises" in Hamlet, but I believe there is a special circle of Hell reserved for people who spoil stories, and I am all about not going to Hell. So proceed at your own risk.
Similarities Between Disney's The Lion King and William Shakespeare's Hamlet
1. Both stories revolve around royalty. Congratulations, you have identified two works that feature royal families. This is only like one of THE MOST common elements in literature, and basically the MAIN element in classic Disney.
2. In both stories, the uncles kill the fathers in order to take the crown for themselves. This is a much better parallel, but, again, it's a common theme in stories. The little brother who wants his big brother's crown is pretty much a classic plot line.
3. In both stories, the ghosts of the dead kings appear. This would be a pretty convincing similarity if their roles weren't vastly, vastly, fundamentally different. See Differences...
Differences Between The Lion King and William Shakespeare's Hamlet
1. In Hamlet, the Queen Gertrude is involved in plotting King Hamlet's murder; in The Lion King, Queen Sarabi is clueless and loyal to King Mufasa.
2. In Hamlet, the uncle and the queen get married--rather quickly. In The Lion King, Scar and Sarabi never seem to have a positive relationship.
3. In The Lion King, the uncle frames the son, Simba--and Simba DOES play a role in King Mufasa's death. Yeah, it was Scar who orchestrated the whole thing, but in Hamlet, the King's death is presumed to have been from natural causes. Hamlet isn't even implicated.
4. In Hamlet, Ophelia and Hamlet are discouraged from marrying. In The Lion King, Simba and Nala are betrothed.
5. In The Lion King, Simba genuinely feels guilty for his father's death and flees. In Hamlet, the son sticks around and actually develops an investigation plan. Yeah, Hamlet goes to England for like four seconds, but that is not his idea, and he comes back ASAP.
6. In Hamlet, the love interest, Ophelia, goes crazy and dies. In The Lion King, Nala is a feisty and persistent character who makes Simba man (lion?) up.
7. The secondary characters are all completely different. Pumba and Timone are on Simba's side; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's job is basically to spy and tattle on Hamlet. Nala doesn't have a brother (Ophelia has Laertes). Nala's father isn't in the picture at all (Ophelia's father is adviser to the king). Simba doesn't have a strong confidante who actually survives the play (Horatio).
8. In Hamlet, there is no Rafiki character.
9. In The Lion King, the ghost of Mufasa appears to Simba to give him strength and hope. In Hamlet, the ghost of King Hamlet appears to Hamlet to demand vengeance. Mufasa encourages peace; King Hamlet brings unease and frustration.
10. In Hamlet, everybody dies at the end (I mean, it is a Shakespearean tragedy). In The Lion King, it is pretty much happily ever after for everyone except evil Uncle Scar (and the hyenas).
And there you have it.
So next time you hear people say "Omg The Lion King is Hamlet," please slap them for me. And then make them read this post.
Such a Nerd