Hamlet and The Lion KingThis is a featured page

Disney's The Lion King is very closely based on the plot of Hamlet, although it has also drawn comparisons with Bambi. In the story, Simba, the son of the King Musafa, goes into exile when his jealous uncle, Scar, tricks him into believing that he was responsible for his father's death. Simba is befriended by a warthog and a meerkat who persuade him that he should adopt a 'no worries' attitude and enjoy life instead of facing his responsibility to his pride. By chance, he is reunited with his childhood friend Nala, who persuades him that he has to return to Pride Rock and confront Scar.
At the end of the film, Simba and Scar fight and Scar falls off a cliff before being finished off by a pack of hyenas whom he has tried to blame for his failings as king.


Wikipedia Review

Online Script

Similarities with Shakespeare

Themes: revenge; hesitation; family conflict; power; responsibility

Characters: Simba - Hamlet
Mufasa - Old Hamlet
Scar - Claudius
Sarabi - Gertrude
Nala - Ophelia
Timon and Pumbaa - Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

Contrasts: the happy resolution, with Simba and Nala displaying their cub and thus completing the 'circle of life'; Simba in exile simply neglecting/ denying his responsibility rather than being tormented by his failure to act. Nala as a far more forceful character than Ophelia, demanding that Simba return and do his duty; the climactic fight scene being a direct power struggle between Simba and Scar, whereas Claudius uses a proxy and attempts to secretly poison Hamlet.

The Lion King, though very much based on Hamlet, has many different elements that we can make comparisons with Shakespeare’s work.
It begins with the birth of Simba, the young cub of the King, Mufasa. This introduces the importance of the natural cycle. As Mufasa says, “We are all connected in the great Circle of Life." The death of one King leads to the rise of another. This is also what happens in Hamlet. Simba is born to be the successor of the King and he can not deny his destined role. As a carefree cub, Simba "just can't wait to be king,” his attitude is quite different from Hamlet, who is also carefree in the beginning of the story, but does not want to be King. Similar to the plot in Hamlet, Mufasa’s spirit appears to Simba, and reminds him of his duty, and repeatedly tells Simba to “Remember” him when Simba runs away after thinking that he had caused the death of Mufasa. This is similar as in Hamlet, the Ghost of old Hamlet appears to him and asks his son to take revenge on Claudius.

The characters in the Lion King are all animals, and the story is set in an untamed natural environment. The movie makes excellent use of imagery, for example rain, dawn and dust are used to symbolize hope or evilness, and from time to time act as foreshadowing. For example, when Mufasa's still ruling, the area of Pride Rock is always under the sunlight, suggesting a bright and optimistic future, however, after Scar has usurped the throne and let in the hyenas, Pride Rock is washed in dark grey tones of colour. When Simba steps up to be the King, the natural order is re-installed and therefore the setting resumes to the bright and sunny scenes as in the beginning of the story.

Nala and Ophelia, the young females, have different characters too. Ophelia is obedient and passive. She accepts all the things that happen to her. She does everything her father tells her to, and accepts all the theories that her father imposes on her. She even rejects the one she loves just because her father tells her not to be with him. On the other hand, Nala is very adventurous and naughty. She knows that Simba is going to bring her somewhere they are forbidden to go to, but she helps him to lie, saying that they want to go near the water pole. When the animals suffer from Scar's tyrannical rule, Nala goes to seek help, and tries to fight against the tyrant. She believes in justice and one's ability, instead of believing in destiny and fate.

We can also make comparisons with the villains in the Lion King with those in Hamlet. Both Claudius and Scar have an unpleasant image. Claudius is presented as cold and mischievous. While Scar is dark in color, skinny, with long black nails and green evil eyes. Both of them are jealous of their brothers’ power and other people’s happiness. They put on disguises and pretend to be friendly and caring to those who are weak and innocent and secretly scheme to destroy people they dislike. Both of them failed once and succeeded the second time. Barochio and Conrad are comparable with Scar's hyena henchmen: Shenzi, Banzai and Ed. They are all the villains’ servants, which serve as supporting characters in the villains' plots. At the end of the story, Barochio and the hyenas know that they are being used by their masters whom they once looked up to and treated as friends. Barochio testifies Clauidius’s bad deed and the hyenas killed Scar. The hyenas also help to bring the good ending without having Simba to kill his uncle, as Simba tells his uncle "I am not like you”, it further shapes his good nature. But unlike Borachio, the hyenas probably do not feel sorry about what they have done and they kill Scar only because they are betrayed by him.

It is also ironic in the way the villains die in Hamlet and the Lion King. Claudius murders old Hamlet by poisoning him in the ear; Scar murders Musafa by pushing him down from the hill and let the wildebeest stamp on Musafa and kill him. In the end of both stories, the villains are killed in the way they tried to harm other people. Claudius is forced to drink the poison he prepares for Hamlet, while Scar falls off the cliff and gets killed by the folk of hyenas.

We can compare Gertrude and Sarabi. Gertrude did not know that Claudius killed the Old Hamlet, and she married the murderer. In The Lion King, although Sarabi does not know that Scar is the cause of Musafa's death, she has no respect for Scar. Sarabi stands up to Scar and demands that they should leave Pride Rock in order to survive. On the other hand, Gertrude treats Claudius as her new king, and becomes his queen. We can see a difference in their characters too. Gertrude is more passive and obedient, whilst Sarabi is only loyal to Mufasa and tough.

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