What Shakespeare Play Inspired the Movie The Lion King?

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Have you ever wondered, “What Shakespeare play inspired the movie Lion King?” Well, for starters, you are not alone. Many people have asked this same question. Here’s the answer, and everything else you need to know about this fun topic.

What Shakespeare Play Inspired the Movie Lion King?
What Shakespeare Play Inspired the Movie Lion King?

What Shakespeare Play Inspired the Movie Lion King?

This is a super fun question!

I am a lifelong lover and creator of theatre (I have both a BA and MA in Theatre), and I’m an obviously HUGE Disney fan, so this subject gets me very excited for a wide variety and number of reasons relating to both.


What Shakespeare Play Inspired the Movie The Lion King? Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, written around 1600, and first performed in 1609. The plot involves a boy named Hamlet, whose uncle kills his father to take the throne. Sound familiar?

If it does sound similar to you, that’s great!

It means you’re paying very close attention to the story. Here’s exactly how that all works out from play to movie.

William Shakespeare’s Play Hamlet Inspired the Movie The Lion King

The story of Hamlet by William Shakespeare is perhaps the greatest work of literature ever written in the English language. In other words, the GOAT.

And Disney’s animated movie The Lion King follows a very similar plot line.

Here’s how the Hamlet and Lion King parallels break down in 5 easy to remember points…

1. Hamlet and Simba are both royalty. Princes, to be exact!

Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark.

Simba is the prince of the Pride Lands.

2. The uncle in each of the stories kills the main character’s father, who is the king. Then the main character gets revenge.

In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, the father of Hamlet is killed by Hamlet’s own uncle, Claudius.

During the Disney Lion King, Simba’s father Mufasa is killed by Simba’s own uncle, the vicious villain Scar.

3. Simba and Hamlet both have a complicated love story.

Ophelia is the name of Hamlet’s love interest in the play by William Shakespeare.

There are parallels between Ophelia and Simba’s love interest, Nala, whom he eventually leads the Prides Land alongside.

4. The comedic relief is a silly pair of guys in both plots.

In Hamlet it’s two characters named Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

In The Lion King, it’s Timon and Pumbaa.

5. Fatherly ghosts show up all over the place!

The play of Hamlet is literally filled with ghosts. The ghost of Hamlet’s father, the dead king, shows up all over the place to give guidance and hints as to his death.

Of course, in The Lion King by Disney Animation, we get to see Simba’s father Mufasa show up to guide him as well.

Because of these 5 reasons (and actually several others!), you can see pretty clearly how the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare inspired the Disney animated movie classic from the 90’s The Lion King.

Pretty cool, right?

If you haven’t read or seen the play version of Hamlet, I highly recommend checking out a movie version of it or getting the play itself to read at home.

Watch a full version of Hamlet the play below for FREE.

It is one of the #1 classics of all time in the English language.

And it will probably make you appreciate how brilliant and wonderful The Lion King is even more, at the same time!

Get your own of The Lion King here or with Disney Movie Club.

What do you think?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

Follow on Twitter and Instagram @disfordisney_.

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Neal Tucker is one of the world’s most engaging Disney influencers, with thousands of views and responses across his blog, podcast, and social media profiles every month.

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