The Lion King and Hamlet: Similarities and Differences
The Lion King is one of my favorite "classic" Disney films; I'm sure that the same if true for many other people out there. It is a fun movie for both children and adults. Is there something deeper to it, though?
I am going to discuss not only The Lion King, but also how it connects to Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. The makers of The Lion King have said that the plot is inspired in part by Hamlet—here are the similarities and differences between the movie and the play.
Both families are royal families.
Simba is the main character in Disney's The Lion King. he is the son of Mufasa, the king of the lions, which makes Simba a prince. Hamlet, from Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is the son of the tragically murdered King Hamlet, which makes him a prince too.
The uncle characters are very similar.
Most people know that, in The Lion King, Simba has an evil uncle named Scar. Scar is jealous of his brother, Mufasa, because he wants to be the king instead. Of course, Scar kills his brother to get what he wants. In Hamlet, Hamlet has an uncle named Claudius. When the reader enters the story, Claudius has already become king—by killing his brother, who was the king.
In The Lion King, Simba develops close friendships with the ever-entertaining Timone and Pumbaa. They are there for him during a time in his life where he has no one, and they teach him how to enjoy life. Simba also has a love interest named Nala. They were friends as young cubs, but romance blossomed when they met again as adults.
In Hamlet, Hamlet has a friend named Horatio whom he knew from college. Though Horatio does not have as big of an impact on Hamlet as Timone and Pumbaa have on Simba, he does help Hamlet on several occasions and can be considered his one true friend. Hamlet also has a love interest named Ophelia. There is much controversy about whether he truly loved her or was simply using her, but she is the one young woman in his life nonetheless.
Both of their fathers die.
As previously mentioned, both (King) Mufasa and King Hamlet are murdered by their brothers, who then took over as the kings.
Both of their fathers reappear as ghosts.
Mufasa appears to Simba in the stars and tells him to take his proper place in the circle of life (as king). Hamlet’s father appears as a ghost and tells Hamlet to take revenge on his uncle.
Both princes are sent away.
Simba spends a long time with Timone and Pumbaa after Scar convinces him to run away. Hamlet’s uncle convinces him to travel to England, where he is secretly supposed to be killed, though he survives.
Both princes end up fighting their uncles.
Simba fights with Scar, who ends up being killed by the hyenas. Hamlet kills his uncle with a sword and poisoned wine.
Both princes must overcome a moral struggle.
In The Lion King, Simba has to learn to step up and take his place as king instead of running from his past. In Hamlet, Hamlet has to make the decision to kill his uncle, and also not to kill himself (a struggle that takes place in his famous "to be or not to be" soliloquy).
Simba and Hamlet are different ages.
Simba is young when his father dies, whereas Hamlet is probably about 30.
Simba's story is generally a happy one.
Simba is sad when his father dies, but spends most of his years in a happy, “Hakuna Matata” state with Timone and Pumbaa.
Hamlet is depressed and suicidal the entire time, with bouts of potential madness.
Most of the characters in "Hamlet" die.
In The Lion King, only the uncle and the father die.
In Hamlet, the uncle, the father, the mother, Hamlet himself, Hamlet’s love interest (Ophelia), Ophelia’s father, Ophelia’s brother, and other minor characters all die.
Simba lives happily ever after.
Simba and Nala get married and have a baby at the end, but Hamlet and Ophelia never get married (since they both die).
Simba receives moral guidance.
Simba has moral guides such as Zazu and Rafiki to help him make good decisions. However, Hamlet does not receive any moral guidance, except the ghost’s call for revenge, which really isn't that moral anyway.
Hamlet's mother gets remarried.
Simba’s mother and Scar are never shown as being married after Mufasa's death, but Hamlet’s uncle does marry Hamlet's mother.
The number of supporting characters differs.
Hamlet includes "extra" important characters. For example, Hamlet kills Ophelia’s father, Polonius, and fights her brother, Laertes. These are crucial events in the play, but have no equivalent in The Lion King.
And of course, the species involved are different.
The Lion King has lions, whereas Hamlet has humans.