The Lion King and Shakespeare

People always say how The Lion King is a lionized, disneyfied take on Hamlet; but the more I’m reading and analyzing Shakespeare, the more I see it as just taking elements from many plays instead of just copying one.

Of course, the main story is similar to Hamlet (king is killed by brother, child prince leaves but eventually returns); but even then there are differences. Mufasa is shown to be a (generally) benevolent and beloved ruler, whereas Hamlet King is shown as morally ambiguous (”Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night, And for the day confined to fast in fires, Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature”) . And while the Lion King spends a big time establishing Simba and Mufasa’s loving relationship, Hamlet seems more adept to establish a certain distance amongst Hamlet senior and son. Lastly, while both Hamlet and Simba return to the kingdoms, it’s for different reasons- Simba returns to his duty as future king, while Hamlet is ordered by his father’s spectre to enact revenge against his killer. And of course the obligatory “nobody dies in a disney film” ending.

In fact, the lion King takes as much more elements from, say, Henry IV. Simba, like Prince Hal, the protagonist of both plays, is a young arrogant youth who spends most of his time lazying around with characters like Falstaff or Timon and Pumbaa, who enable an irresponsible behavior. The whole crux of the story is for Hal to finally grow up into the king he was meant to be.

Now, Scar. Yes, he has similar elements to Claudius, but I do not think he represents him fully. I might be biased, considering this one is my favorite play out of Shakespeare, but I think the character of Scar shares more elements in common with Richard the Third. Come to think of it: both were brothers to a crowned king, were considered wicked/ill-suited compared to their brothers (either for lacking in physical strength or having a disability), both plot to overtake their families to crown themselves kings, have right-hand men at their disposal (the hyenas and the Duke of Buckingham), and have even attempted infanticide (against Simba and the little princes in the tower). Eventually they end up with the crown, but send the kingdom into such disarray and disgrace, yet they refuse to admit it. And of course they die at the end, but that goes without saying.



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