The Circle Of Life: How The Ancients Begot Shakespeare, Who Begot Disney

2029 words - 9 pages

Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.
--Picasso
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) ...view middle of the document...

The backstabbing Claudius becomes the sneering Scar, the comic relief of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern become the slapstick Timon and Pumbaa, the guilty Gertrude becomes the powerless Sarabi, and the vengeful Hamlet becomes the rightful king Simba. The greatest similarity between the two work’s protagonists is their tragic flaw, indecision and avoiding the task at hand. While Hamlet escapes into his mind, Simba runs away from the Pride Land to live in ignorant bliss. Both Scar and Claudius murder their brothers, and take their crowns and wives. Although in The Lion King, Sarabi does not love Scar, she is still forced to serve him. These crimes are not known to Hamlet or Simba until their fathers, the elder Hamlet and Mufasa, respectively, visit as ghosts (Gavin 55-57). Both phantoms make their dramatic exits echoing the same word “Remember” (Hamlet Act I scene v). If one takes Hamlet, subtracts the adultery, implied incest, suicide, and insanity, and then adds talking animals, children themes, “Hakuna Matata,” and Elton John, The Lion King is the result.
Romeo and Juliet was a story that had been told and retold countless times before Shakespeare got his hands on it. Starting out as a Greek legend called Pyramus and Thisbe, the first written version of the story was written by the Latin poet Ovid, one of Shakespeare’s favorite poets (Muir 152). Shakespeare actually uses Pyramus and Thisbe as a frame and parody in his comedy, A Midsummer Night Dream (145). Through oral tradition and Ovid’s works, the story of the star-crossed lovers was passed down and retold in many different ways. The legend was so immersed in British culture; its story was eventually changed to be included in the Matter of Britain, renamed Tristan and Isolde (Levenson 328). It wasn’t until four hundred years later that, “…the full-scale story [and characters] known to Shakespeare’s audience… took shape in the sixteenth century with Luigi da Porto’s Historia novellamente ritrovate di due nobili amanti…” (326). Shakespeare’s two immediate sources when writing Romeo and Juliet were Ovid and the Italian Matteo Bandello’s retelling of the story in his work, Novelle (327). After being passed down through the ages for nearly two thousand years, Shakespeare made the best known love story of all time even more famous. Four years after The Lion King was released, Disney created a sequel, this time using Romeo and Juliet as its muse. The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride starts when Simba, now king, banishes the lions who joined in Scar’s insurrection. A feud forms between the two groups of lions, and, in the midst of the conflict, Simba’s daughter, Kiara, and Scar’s son, Kovu, fall in love. It’s not hard to see that Kovu parallels the brash, young Romeo, while Kiara is Juliet, a girl suddenly maturing into womanhood. Rafiki, the shaman of the Pride Land, shares a striking resemblance to Friar Laurence, both being religious...

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