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The Lion King and Hamlet: Similarities and Differences

Updated on October 23, 2015
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bangell08 is an English major at University of Akron in Ohio. Writing is her passion, which she plans on pursuing for a career.


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"Hamlet" versus "The Lion King": What are the similarities and differences?
"Hamlet" versus "The Lion King": What are the similarities and differences? | Source

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.

Similarities

Both the lives of Simba and Hamlet are profoundly changed by their uncles.
Both the lives of Simba and Hamlet are profoundly changed by their uncles.

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.

Relationships.

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).

Differences

Simba lives a largely happy, carefree life for years after his father dies, unlike Hamlet.
Simba lives a largely happy, carefree life for years after his father dies, unlike Hamlet. | Source

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.

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    • jj 2 years ago

      Hamlet would have been around the age of 18 because he specifically asks to go back to university to study.

    • Jacob 2 years ago

      Just because he had to go back to school doesn't make him young in those times, the play indirectly mentions his age of about 30 in act five.

    • Jamie 2 years ago

      I would equate timon and pumba to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. A pair of friends that are there to aid the main character with the dilemma. (In both cases an emotional problem.) But r and g die, but timon and pumba don't.

    • David 2 years ago

      I would also say that both Mufasa and King Hamlet are benevolent rulers, and known to be the strongest and the greatest among men (or lions), and those who kill them both end up being ineffective rulers, especially Scar, and are physically and morally weak in comparison to the previous rulers.

    • John 2 years ago

      Stealing a few plot points from Hamlet doesn't make it the same story. The Lion King is another lame misogynistic Disney story about women's inability to lead and society's need for an all powerful male ruler. The kingdom suffers famine until the "rightful" male heir to the throne is reinstated. He comes back and saves the day and all the she-lions love him. What a crock. Hamlet is about the inability of a man to take action and revenge the incestuous murder of his father. It's about insanity, melancholy and indecision. The Lion King is a childish hero story written by corporate hacks. Hamlet is a tragedy written by the greatest playwright ever to live. Comparing the 2 is like comparing Miley Cyrus to Beethoven.

    • Carson 2 years ago

      Hamlet's father is not killed by Hamlet's Uncle, Claudius. He is killed by Fortinbras's father.

    • Mark 2 years ago

      Actually you have it backwards.

    • 24 months ago

      do you have to

    • nameguy 22 months ago

      what about fortinbras?

    • adam 20 months ago

      I like pie

    • Jim 20 months ago

      Jeff Jeff Jeff Jeff 21 Jeff

    • Jenavive 18 months ago

      @John

      Prides work that way. Do you know anything about lions?

    • Connor 16 months ago

      The lion (Panthera leo) is one of the five big cats in the genus Panthera and a member of the family Felidae. The commonly used term African lion collectively denotes the several subspecies found in Africa. With some males exceeding 250 kg (550 lb) in weight,[4] it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger. Wild lions currently exist in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia (where an endangered remnant population resides in Gir Forest National Park in India) while other types of lions have disappeared from North Africa and Southwest Asia in historic times. Until the late Pleistocene, about 10,000 years ago, the lion was the most widespread large land mammal after humans. They were found in most of Africa, across Eurasia from western Europe to India, and in the Americas from the Yukon to Peru.[5] The lion is a vulnerable species, having seen a major population decline in its African range of 30–50% per two decades during the second half of the 20th century.[2] Lion populations are untenable outside designated reserves and national parks. Although the cause of the decline is not fully understood, habitat loss and conflicts with humans are currently the greatest causes of concern. Within Africa, the West African lion population is particularly endangered.

      In the wild, males seldom live longer than 10 to 14 years, as injuries sustained from continual fighting with rival males greatly reduce their longevity.[6] In captivity they can live more than 20 years. They typically inhabit savanna and grassland, although they may take to bush and forest. Lions are unusually social compared to other cats. A pride of lions consists of related females and offspring and a small number of adult males. Groups of female lions typically hunt together, preying mostly on large ungulates. Lions are apex and keystone predators, although they are also expert scavengers obtaining over 50 percent of their food by scavenging as opportunity allows. While lions do not typically hunt humans, some have. Sleeping mainly during the day, lions are active primarily at night (nocturnal), although sometimes at twilight (crepuscular).[7][8]

    • speedgaming26 13 months ago

      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.

      Relationships.

      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).

    • big boot bitchers 12 months ago

      add your comment

    • your name... 12 months ago

      comment^

    • my name 12 months ago

      Comment squared

    • Lady Bartleby profile image

      Mayte 10 months ago from Seville

      When I was 20 I had a class about this topic. It was amazing for me to see the similarities. A good teacher, showman and talented man in University of Huelva

    • DanaDoes profile image

      Dana Culverwell-Solomon 9 months ago from Port Alfred, Eastern Cape, South Africa

      Great find to come across. Being a fan of both Shakespeare and The Lion King; I had heard about The Lion King being comparable to Hamlet. However, I've never known about the exact details until now. Thanks for that

    • Jerry 9 months ago

      One might say that the hyenas represent rozencrats and guildenstin because they help the new king of scar/Claudius

    • kk 8 months ago

      hello jeff

    • jjfresh 8 months ago

      he was a good king

    • Anas 7 months ago

      hi i hate you

    • KappaPrim3 7 months ago

      NO, the Queen is the murderer and a sandwich

    • Kayley 6 months ago

      This page is amazing well done .xxx:):):):):):):)

    • king 5 months ago

      sugar

      honey

      ice

      tea

    • Karla 5 months ago

      In response to John who said, "comparing Lion King to Hamlet is like comparing Miley Cyrus to Beethoven" is missing the point. The blog writer is not comparing them -- Disney did. The Lion King was intentionally written as a modern telling of Hamlet. And while I agree it's not true to the original theme, tone, or intent, it is what it is. A borrowed plot line adapted to make a children's movie. I do agree with you on one point -- Shakespeare is the greatest playwright of all time. And Hamlet is one of his greatest works!

    • Thomas 2 months ago

      Great, but Edmond Rostand was far superior to William Shakespeare

    • awesome 2 months ago

      u got it all wrong. a cloud and a ghost r diffrent things. (be scared of the clouds!!evil precipitation!!doesn't make sense!!)

    • commentor 2 months ago

      there is no fortinbras for the lion king! no outside forces, even. unless u count the hyenas.

    • kk 4 weeks ago

      You all are crazy

    • Imma 12 days ago

      Hamlet is not 30, he is about 18. He asks to go back to college because he's still in college and had come home for a visit.

      If this author didn't know that, than this article is useless.

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