Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.
William Shakespeare and The Walt Disney Company are two of the most beloved and famous storytellers of all time, but it is a well-known fact that the majority of their stories are not of their own invention. Excluding The Tempest, all of Shakespeare’s plotlines are borrowed from classical authors, prominent legends and histories, as well as many of his contemporaries (Gray 321-323). Likewise, the majority of Disney’s classic animated films are based off of famous works of literature (including Shakespeare) and fairy tales. Shakespeare’s influence on modern media is undeniable. From The West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet) to Amanda Bynes’s chick-flick classic She’s the Man (Twelfth Night), the Bard’s signature can be found hidden in countless works of literature and cinema (Smith 137). Of these reworks, three Disney movies can be traced directly back to Shakespearean plays: The Lion King, its sequel, The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, and, perhaps surprisingly, Mulan, coming from Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Twelfth Night, respectively. Although Disney may have used Shakespeare’s plays as their template, the tales themselves had been around for years before even Shakespeare.
The title of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is not only named after Shakespeare’s late son, Hamnet. It also is an anagram for the Danish legend of Amleth, which had been around for centuries by the time that Shakespeare began writing his tragedy. In fact, “the earliest extant version was narrated… by the twelfth-century Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus in his Danorum Regum herorumque Historiae...” (Maxwella 518). Shakespeare chose this story as the outline for his masterpiece Hamlet, and Disney chose Hamlet to be the blueprints for their classic beloved by parents and children alike, The Lion King. The Lion King loosely parallels Hamlet in its plot, themes, and, most importantly, characters. The backstabbing Claudius becomes...