Based On Hamlet

Shakespeare’s works have inspired many writers to create films, books, plays, and more with plots borrowed from The Bard. Adaptations range from a similar play but with modernized text to works almost unrecognizable as something inspired by Shakespeare.

The list of works inspired by one of Will’s most famous plays, Hamlet, is lengthy… if not inconceivably long. But are we sometimes incorrect in saying that a work is based on one of Shakespeare’s plays? Perhaps the similar plot is coincidental.

The Shakespeare Geek posted a link to a write up about the Super Mario Brothers movie, which includes the following:

The entire plot is actually a tweaked version of Hamlet. The old Mushroom King (King Hamlet) is de-evolved (killed) by King Koopa (Claudius), and it’s up to an inexperienced hero (Mario/Luigi) to restore balance to the kingdom by avenging the king. Daisy is Ophelia and Spike and Iggy are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Except, you know, nobody dies.

A more common example is Disney’s The Lion King is based on Hamlet.

I wonder… do the writers say “Hey, I have an idea for a story. Hamlet, but with lions and it’s a musical and kid-friendly”? Or do they come up with a story about taking back the throne and realize it parallels some aspects of Hamlet? And doesn’t Lion King have things in common with any other play by Shakespeare? (Scar as Richard III, anyone?) Maybe revenge tragedies are such common plot and the first one people think of is that of the Danish Prince. If so, there were others that came before!

So are people really coming up with stories based on Hamlet, or is it just a plot that people know has been successful for hundreds of years (even before Shakespeare) so they use it? I’m thinking that it’s a little bit of both.

If I ever meet the creative team behind The Lion King I’ll ask and let you know.