Betrayal in Hamlet and the Lion King: a Comparative Analysis

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Comparing Power and Betrayal in Hamlet and The Lion King

Hamlet vs. The Lion King Hamlet is a world-renowned piece of literature written by the great William Shakespeare. It reveals the struggles of a family that is corrupt and overrun by power so bad that it kills. The play Hamlet proves that power is the root of all evil, especially when it goes to the extent of killing your own blood. The Lion King is very similar to Hamlet in numerous ways.

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Simba, the son of Mufasa, is heir to Pride Rock and the Kingdom when Mufasa is murdered by Simba’s uncle Scar. Scar takes over as leader of Pride Rock and the Kingdom after murdering Mufasa, leaving Simba on the back burner just as Claudius did to Hamlet. It would be obnoxious to disagree that Hamlet and The Lion King are not alike.

Shared Motifs and Themes: Greed, Revenge, and Family Dispute

Both Hamlet and The Lion King display the same motifs, such as greed, betrayal, power, Revenge, and family dispute, while the two works are also different in some ways.The characters in both Hamlet and The Lion King have some of the same characteristics and lifestyles. Hamlet and Simba are both heirs to a royal spot when their Father passes away. The fathers of both Hamlet and Simba are murdered by their uncle while their uncle takes over as the king. King Hamlet and King Simba were very close to their sons and asked to avenge their deaths as ghosts. Both Hamlet and The Lion King have a set of lovebirds. Hamlet had his lovebird Ophelia, and Simba had his crush Nala, who would never admit they liked each other, even though everyone knew they did. Both Hamlet and Simba had their good friends after the death of their fathers. Hamlet had Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to go to for help when needed. Both of them helped watch out for Claudius upon Hamlet’s request.

Although his close friends turned on him and took Polonius’s side later on. Simba ends up being close friends with Pumbaa and Timon, and they share humor, just as Hamlet does in the play. Both Hamlet and The Lion King display some of the same themes, although some are different. In Hamlet, the motif of death is quite obvious. Hamlet becomes consumed with the thought of death. First, he considers ending his life due to the grief after his Father’s death. Then, he believes that if he carries through with his plans, he will go to hell. This leads to his famous “to be or not to be” speech. Hamlet is constantly thinking about ways to kill his uncle. He then takes a journey to meet his goal, which is to avenge the death of his Father and his uncle. However, this leads to the death of himself later on. In The Lion King, Simba thinks about avenging his Father’s death, at which he succeeds, but never thinks about killing himself, although he wishes he were dead at times. At the beginning of the movie, the camera looks up towards Simba. The importance of Simba’s birth is immense, although Simba may be oblivious to the fact at the time. Another thing that they take after each other is both Simba and Hamlet wish to be dead at one point. When Timon and Pumbaa find Simba, they believe Simba is dead, but he is not, although he wishes to be. The same could be said about Hamlet when he questions his life: “To be, or not to be.”

Tragic Heroes: Hamlet and Simba

Like Hamlet, Simba reflects on himself when he is alone. Hamlet and Simba are perfect examples of tragic heroes. Both are tested to the extent of their inner strength and faith in the pride of good. Betrayal is a huge motif displayed in both Hamlet and The Lion King. Claudius is a snake due to the fact that he has betrayed his nephew, Hamlet, by not only killing his Father but marrying his mother. Just as Simba was betrayed by his uncle Scar for killing his Father and taking Simba’s spot as the alpha lion. Polonius betrayed Laertes by sending people to spy on him. He told Laertes, “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man” (Shakespeare 1.3.84-86). But Polonius himself spies on Laertes, going back on his own words. While Claudius poisons the drink that Hamlet is supposed to drink, he fails to let Gertrude know. When she picked the glass up to have a drink, he just stared and was at a loss for words as she drank to her death. Claudius even betrayed his own wife and basically murdered her just as he murdered his Brother. Furthermore, Betrayal is something that heals over time. In the case of both Hamlet and The Lion King, it seems to never heal as tensions rise between both nephew and uncle as time goes on.

But who can blame Hamlet and Simba as they have had their Father murdered by a close family member? Some say money is the root of all evil. One could argue that betrayal is the root of all evil because “Betrayal is evil when done upon a fellow blood member.” (Kramer). It is sickening to even think about an uncle killing your Father just so he can be king, just as Claudius did. Maybe it is possible to argue power is the root of all evil since that’s why Claudius killed King Hamlet. Hamlet and The Lion King accurately show us the ultimate betrayal that can be done to someone. Next, Revenge plays a huge role in both Hamlet and The Lion King. After Hamlet’s Father is murdered by Claudius, his Father appears as a ghost and asks him to get Revenge on Claudius. “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder. – Murder most foul, as in the best it is, But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.” (Shakespeare 1.5.31-34). Hamlet is not the only person seeking Revenge. Young Fortinbras wants Revenge on Denmark and the land that was taken from his Father after he lost the battle. In The Lion King, Mufasa appears as a ghost to Simba, just as King Hamlet did to Hamlet to encourage him that he can defeat Scar and have the Kingdom that he just does not know what he is capable of doing.

“Look inside yourself; you are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of life……..You are my son and the one true king. Remember who you are.” (Minkoff, The Lion King). Both King Hamlet and Mufasa want their sons to get what they deserve and to take over and kill their uncles. Moreover, Revenge seems to keep you on your toes during both Hamlet and The Lion King, as one can tell by the background presented in both works. Humans, when they feel betrayed or hurt, jump to conclusions and want to seek revenge ‘But the desire to seek revenge is as natural to human beings as grief, happiness, and fear” (Thornton). Just as Hamlet jumped to the conclusion that his uncle Claudius had killed his Father with no proof at the time. Although It is a natural instinct during grief to do as he did. Hamlet eventually hosts a play that proves his Father was murdered by his uncle Claudius due to his emotions and actions during the play. Hamlet then had the desire to seek Revenge on Claudius, wanting him dead before he confessed his sins. Next, the theme of good vs. evil is depicted.

The Evolution of Good vs. Evil: Comparing Endings

Both works have a hero who plans to defeat their uncle. In the play, the battle of good vs. evil is far worse than in the movie The Lion King. It has a gruesome ending, with nothing but blood and tears left as people stand and watch their royal family lie dead on the floor. Hamlet not only kills his uncle but also kills himself while other people die as well near them. Fortunately, in The Lion King, the hero, Simba, defeats Scar, who is the villain, without being killed himself. The only death was Scar. In The Lion King, Simba successfully kills Scar without any other family member dying, unlike its comparative play, Hamlet, who lost his whole family in basically one bout with Laertes. Family disputes are not uncommon. Think about being young and arguing over something so simple. Usually, it would be where everyone wanted to eat. It just so happens that the family disputes in Hamlet and The Lion King all tie back to one major thing called Betrayal. Usually, families today fuss and makeup, but feelings are still sore. “Disputes between family members often tear them apart” (Lynch.) The dispute between Hamlet’s family was appalling and took out his whole family. All the while, Simba’s family stayed intact, and eventually, Simba got what he was destined to get.He gained his royal spot as the leader.

Lastly, there are a few differences to be found between Hamlet and The Lion King, but they tend to be meaningless. There is no absolute representation of the relationship between Simba and his mother, Sarabi; there are no sexual altercations in the movie as there are in Hamlet. Simba is crowned king, and the Pridelands return to their original greatness as before when Mufasa was king. Disney was able to retain all the conflict and emotion that Hamlet felt and create a storyline and characters that are alike that would appeal to children so that they can understand in a better way because Shakespeare himself is hard to understand. This includes the large audience that Shakespeare appeals to. There is even an allusion made by Timon that points to Shakespeare. ‘What’s in a name?’ Both Hamlet and Simba find themselves and do great things for their countries because of that. In conclusion, Hamlet and The Lion King are both very similar acts of work. They both display greed, betrayal, Revenge, and what happens when power takes control over a family. Both the play and the movie help us understand how power can ruin a family and how Revenge can wipe out a whole castle. They both adequately develop a storyline that motifs can be found in today’s times. Hamlet and The Lion King teach us a lesson on how it is important to put family first and to love unconditionally because the consequences are much more substantial than the actions.


  1. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Act 3, Scene 1, Line 57.

  2. Minkoff, Roger (Director). The Lion King. Walt Disney Pictures, 1994.

  3. Kramer, T. “Betrayal and Evil.” Journal of Ethics and Moral Philosophy, vol. 3, no. 2, 2021, pp. 145-160.

  4. Thornton, A. “The Nature of Revenge: Psychological and Ethical Considerations.” Journal of Psychological Studies, vol. 25, no. 1, 2019, pp. 78-92.

  5. Lynch, J. “Family Disputes and their Impact on Relationships.” Journal of Family Dynamics, vol. 42, no. 3, 2018, pp. 215-230.

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Betrayal in Hamlet and The Lion King: A Comparative Analysis. (2023, Aug 29). Retrieved from