Lion King

The Past and the Present: Shakespeare on the Big Screen

Image: ClipArt ETC Chandler B. Beach The New Student's Reference Work for Teachers Students and Families (Chicago, IL: F. E. Compton and Company, 1909)

Image: ClipArt ETC
Chandler B. Beach The New Student’s Reference Work for Teachers Students and Families (Chicago, IL: F. E. Compton and Company, 1909)


Would William Shakespeare have pictured Hamlet as a lion cub? Or imagined Othello as a high school basketball player?

It’s impossible to say how Shakespeare would react to seeing adaptations of his most famous characters in modern times. There is no dispute that his plays remain a popular source of inspiration for movies. These aren’t limited to direct adaptations. Many characters, stories and themes penned by him have been transferred to a modern setting on multiple occasions.

West Side Story (1963)

Romeo and Juliet is brought to 20th-century New York and the star-crossed lovers are re-imagined as Tony and Maria. Maria is the sister of a Puerto Rican gangster while Tony is affiliated with a rival gang. The Jets and Sharks take the place of the Capulets and Montagues. While Tony mirrors Romeo’s untimely death, Maria diverges from following Juliet’s end. Instead of committing suicide, Maria uses Tony’s death to end the fighting between the Jets and the Sharks.

Ten Things I Hate About You (1999)

Taming of the Shrew goes to high school in this adaptation of the famous Shakespeare comedy. The theme of finding a husband and shaming a shrewish woman into submission changed to dating among teenagers and being true to yourself. The plot mirrors Shakespeare’s original play as it focuses on Bianca’s attempt to find someone to date her older sister Kat since her father has made a rule preventing her from dating until Kat does.

O (2001)

This modern version of Othello turns the protagonist into Odin, the captain of his high school basketball team. Desdemona becomes his girlfriend Desi. Iago becomes Hugo, Odin’s treacherous teammate. The English Journal noted that Hugo’s actions in spreading rumors of Desi’s infidelity to Odin cause him to spiral out of control in school and on the court — in the same manner Iago affected Othello. Both characters become overwhelmed by their desire to inflict physical violence based on a false rumor.


By Scott Grayson


To learn more about the Shakespeare connections in The Lion King (1993), click here.

For She’s The Man (2006), click here.

And for Romeo & Juliet through the ages, click here.

Wordy Wednesday – “Every inch a king”

Isn’t it just one of those days that you wish people will randomly break out in song? Better yet, in Shakespeare related song?

You are probably aware of Shakespeare’s legacy on Broadway. Where would “West Side Story” be without Romeo and Juliet? And Cole Porter would be at a loss without Taming of the Shrew inspiring “Kiss Me Kate!” But the Bard has had his lines slipped more subtly into another great Broadway hit, in fact one of the most successful Broadway hits: “The Lion King”.

I was listening to “The Lion King” the other day and (not) singing along to my favourite song “The Madness of King Scar”. Of course there is the nod to Hamlet in Scar’s lament:

“Nobody loved me, there’s the rub, not even as a cub”

but Tim Rice also managed to slip a little bit of King Lear into the song that I hadn’t noticed before.

The song beings:

“I am that rare and awesome thing.

I’m every inch a king…”

which is a reference to Shakespeare’s lines:

The trick of that voice I do well remember;
Is’t not the King?

Ay, every inch a king! (

How seamlessly Shakespeare’s words and phrases melt into our world!

Happy Wednesday!

Valeo amici.