Wonderful stories can be created on paper, on the stage and on the screen. Blockbusters existed long ago, even before films! Famous plays, operas, ballets and musicals of long ago were often inspired by great books.  Think of Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, which inspired an award-winning movie, a ballet  and a  famous musical, West Side Story. Mark Twain’s humorous story The £1,000,000 Banknote (1893), set in 19th-century London, inspired the entertaining movie, Trading Places, set in 20th-century New York City.

Sometimes the characters and the setting of the movie are quite different from the original book, but certain similarities remain. Let’s take a look at the animated movie The Lion King, which has also become a successful musical. The Lion King and Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet, share several similarities. Both Simba, the young lion, and Hamlet are princes, and  are destined to rule their kingdom. Their fathers were kings who were brutally killed by their uncles: Scar and Claudius. Both uncles were cruel, ambitious and power-hungry, and became murderers in order to be kings. These traits are underlying themes in both stories.

Another similarity is the presence of a young, influential female figure: Ophelia in Hamlet, and Nala in The Lion King. Rafiki, the wise baboon in The Lion King, is similar to Horatio, Hamlet’s friend. Rafiki brings Simba to the ghost of his murdered father in the same way as Horatio brings Hamlet to see his father’s ghost. Hamlet’s father’s ghost explicitly asks for revenge, while Simba’s father’s ghost reminds his son of his responsibility towards his kingdom. This encourages Simba to return to his kingdom and regain his throne, whereas Hamlet must kill his uncle Claudius.

The first obvious difference between the two is the setting and the characters. Hamlet is set in Elsinore, Denmark, with human characters, while The Lion King is set in the jungle of east Africa with animal protagonists. The Lion King has a happy ending, as Simba becomes the new king, while Hamlet and several other characters all die tragically.


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