Pop Culture

Shakespeare and The Simpsons

The Simpsons is satire of contemporary culture, therefore pop culture references are a huge part of the show. Shakespeare references are used on The Simpsons a lot (no wonder OJ Villacorta called The Simpsons Shakespeare remixes “Shakespeare for a younger generation”!) The Simpsons has continuously done Shakespeare remixes and includes multiple subtle references to Shakespeare’s plays. Below is a list of some Shakespeare references on The Simpsons.

1. The Episode Titles
Some of The Simpsons episode titles have names that reference Shakespeare’s plays, but aren’t the same storyline. Here are two episode titles I found that are clever spins on the titles of Shakespeare’s plays: Much Apu About Nothing (a take on Much Ado About Nothing) and Midsummer Nice Dream (a take on Midsummer Night’s Dream).

2. The “Do The Bard Man” segment from “Tales From The Public Domain”: The Simpsons version of Hamlet
This is considered to be one of the most well known and least subtle references to a Shakespeare play, because it’s a Simpsons adaptation of Hamlet, where the Simpsons characters play Hamlet characters. Do The Bard Man was what introduced me to Shakespeare’s Hamlet and I consider it to be the most effective reference to Shakespeare that the Simpsons has ever done, because it’s the perfect combination of Simpsons style humor, direct quotations from the original play, and Hamlet satire. The key difference between the Simpsons adaptation of Hamlet and the original play is the deaths. Everyone still dies in the end but the causes of death are different than the original play for the sake of making the plot significantly more comedic.

3. The Simpsons version of Macbeth: a segment from “ Four Great Women and A Manicure”
If you haven’t already seen The Simpsons version of Macbeth on the “Four Great Women And A Manicure” episode, the title explains itself. The Macbeth segment starts after an exchange between Lisa and Marge, where they’re bonding and having a manicure, while they talk about great and powerful women of history. Unlike the “Do The Bard Man” segment, it’s not a direct adaptation of a Shakespeare play. The Macbeth segment features all of the Simpsons characters as themselves, experiencing a Shakespearean dilemma.

Simpsons do Macbeth (from S20E20) from Gc Howard on Vimeo.

Here’s a plot summary to explain what I mean when I say it’s a Shakespearean dilemma:  Marge convinces Homer to try out for a Springfield stage adaptation of Macbeth. When he gets a part in the play that’s not the lead role, Marge convinces Homer to kill the actor playing Macbeth. As soon as the news spreads that their lead is dead, Homer is chosen to play Macbeth. When the play is performed in front of an audience for the first time, the critics give Homer’s cast mates better reviews than him. Every time an actor gets all the positive reviews or someone gets in the way of Homer’s path to success, Marge convinces Homer to kill them. This cycle of killing continues until Homer is the only one still alive. The ghosts of the dead Macbeth cast find out that Marge is what caused Homer to kill them and get revenge on her. When she dies, Homer is alone and delivers Macbeth’s famous “tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” soliloquy to the ghost of his dead wife.

The plot of The Simpsons version of Macbeth is a direct reference to the original play because the circumstance mirrors the plotline of the original. Although the Simpsons characters portray themselves in a contemporary Springfield, the arch of the story is similar. Both Marge and Lady Macbeth are convincing their husbands to kill because they want power, which in The Simpsons power relates to fame and fortune. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, power is being wealthy and a member of the royalty. Both women convince their husbands to kill all who stand in the way of their pursuit of power and face the consequences although in The Simpsons version of <em “mso-bidi-font-style:=”” normal”=””>Macbeth, the consequences are different than the original for the sake of making it comedic.

These are some of the most well known (and easy to spot) references to Shakespeare in The Simpsons although there are several. Next time you watch The Simpsons, look out for the Shakespeare tributes hidden in some of the episodes.

Shakespeare References in Disney Movies

Although Shakespeare isn’t formally introduced to most students until high school, kids have exposure to Shakespeare significantly earlier than they’re even aware of through watching Disney classics.  Here’s a list of five Shakespeare references in Disney movies. For a list that explores Disney references to Shakespeare in deeper detail see Rogue Benjamin’s blog post.


Beauty And The Beast:
In one of my personal favourite Disney movies, there’s this great segment that’s about 30 seconds, where there’s a subtle reference to Romeo And Juliet. In that particular scene we learn that the Beast never learned how to read, so Belle decides to teach him. At the end of the scene she reads to him a passage from Romeo and Juliet and quotes the original play: “There was never a story of more woe than that of Juliet and her Romeo.”

shakespeare-pocahontas-journey-to-a-new-worldPocahontas II: Journey To A New World:
Not only is there a clever reference to Hamlet in this movie, but there’s also an actual appearance by Shakespeare himself. In the scene where Pocahontas makes her first appearance in London the townspeople sing “what a day in London” and the cartoon version of Shakespeare sings with them. While the townspeople are singing, a gravedigger pushes his cart as a skull rolls off the top of the cart, into Shakespeare’s hand. This sparks a moment of inspiration as he sings, with the skull still in his hands “what is to be or not to be” and writes on his parchment.


Toy Story 3:
Spoiler alert: at the end of the movie, the toys get together and stage a version of Romeo and Juliet. Mr. Prickle Pants plays Romeo and a Little Green Man plays Juliet. Mr. Prickle Pants and the little man perform an adorable rendition of the famous balcony scene. The hedgehog quotes “but soft what light through yonder window breaks” and the little green man replies: “Romeo Oh Romeo Wherefore Art Thou Romeo”.


Nightmare Before Christmas
In The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Skellington, while singing makes a subtle reference to the Hamlet gravedigger scene. He takes off his own head, while he sings “since I am dead I can take off my head to recite Shakespearean quotations.” This is a subtle reference to the scene where Hamlet holds up the skull and says, “alas I knew him poor Yorick! I knew him Horatio, a fellow of most infinite jest of most excellent fancy.”


The Lion King:
The Lion King is the most well known Disney reference to Shakespeare, because the entire story is loosely based on Hamlet. Claudius (Scar) kills his brother, the King (Mufasa). Hamlet (Simba) is visited by the ghost of his father (Mufasa) and is lead astray by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Timon and Pumba). He eventually avenges for his father’s death. The storyline is similar although there’s one key difference in order to make it Disney and kid friendly: there are fewer deaths than the original Hamlet.

These are only a few of Disney’s references to Shakespeare but here’s a fun task: next time you watch a Disney movie, look out for subtle references to Shakespeare. These references are a feature of multiple Disney movies. What’s your favourite Shakespeare reference in Disney movies? Have you managed to spot any? Leave a comment and tell us about your experiences spotting Shakespeare references in Disney movies.

Shakespeare at the Movies- The Muppets

Since the 1950’s, Jim Henson and Co. have been delighting children and adults alike with their band of Muppets!
The Muppets have appeared in many movies and have had several television shows since their debut, constantly making reference to Shakespeare and other important literary figures along the way.
Since Kermit and the rest of The Muppets are back on the big screen this week, let’s take a look at some of the nods to Shakespeare over the years!

Monsterpiece Theatre appeared on Sesame Street, and featured Cookie Monster introducing skits based on some of the great literary classics! Shakespeare’s work appeared in this segment several times.

A segment on The Muppet Show called Veterinarian’s Hospital tried to find out how many Shakespeare references can fit into a minute and a half.

Patrick Stewart appeared on Sesame Street and pondered the age old question- “B… Or not a B?”

The Muppet Show had many panel discussions during its run. One of the more important topics discussed; Was William Shakespeare, in fact, bacon?

Garth Brooks made some Shakespearean modifications to the duet he planned on doing with Miss Piggy during a taping of Muppets Tonight.

I know we haven’t even begun to list all of the Shakespeare references in the Muppets’ work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find some more on your own! Which Shakespeare reference is your favorite? Leave a comment and let me know!

The Tragedy of Khamlet: Or, The Klingon Hamlet

Did you know that Shakespeare has been performed in Klingon? The Klingon Hamlet is an adaptation of the play into the fictionalized language of Star Trek, published by the Klingon Language Institute.

The idea was inspired by this scene in Star Trek VI, where Chancellor Gorkon suggests that Shakespeare’s works are actually of Klingon origin and its English adaptations crude retellings:

The Klingon Language Institute has an ongoing project to translate the complete works of Shakespeare (or, Wil’yam Shex’pir as he is called in Klingon) and are presently translating Klingon adaptations of Much Ado About Nothing and Macbeth.

If you’re wondering about the challenges of performing Shakespeare entirely in Klingon, check out the video below:

Another Photo Friday! Shakespeare’s Star Wars

Happy Friday everyone. Do I ever have a treat for you! Do you like Star Wars? Do you like Shakespeare? Do you like Star Wars and Shakespeare? Guess what? You no longer need to choose between your love for Shakespeare’s plays and your love for George Lucas’ Star Wars series thanks to Ian Doescher’s Shakespeare remix of one of the script of one of the Star Wars movies. I found this randomly online one day and I thought I’d take a minute to share with all of you lovely readers my accidental discovery that is now on my long term book wish list and, if you love the idea of Shakespeare style Star Wars and think it’s as silly and genius as I do I’m sure you’re as enthusiastic and intrigued as I am. There’s also a more in depth description of the book on the thinkgeek website  and check out this book trailer that explains the book’s concept.

In a nut shell the focus of my Friday post is the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars as pictured below.  Fun fact: everything from the illustrations, to the text are done in a Shakespeare meets Star Wars style:


It’s Almost Halloween… Let’s Celebrate Witches!

Hey everyone! Halloween is only one day away, so I hope you have your costumes ready and scary movies picked! I thought that today would be the perfect day to celebrate some of my favorite characters that have appeared in Shakespeare’s plays.

The Three Witches, (sometimes referred to as the Weird Sisters) are featured in Macbeth. Early on in the play they appear, revealing a prophecy to Macbeth that he would soon be King, and later on, his impending doom. Though these characters do not appear in as many scenes in the play, they have certainly left their mark upon our memories. The witches recite those famous words:

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

We may not have the entire spell memorized, but we definitely know that famous line! Here are some references to the witches that have appeared in modern Popular Culture!

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

2. The musical group The Weird Sisters from the Harry Potter Series

3. Double Double Toil and Trouble starring Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen

4. A retelling of Macbeth from the Animaniacs

5. Sabrina the Teenage Witch and her aunts cast a revenge spell inspired by the Weird Sisters

I know that there are loads of other references, but I had to stop myself at 5! Send me a list of your favorites!

Want to see a live version of the Weird Sisters? Make sure to book your tickets for our upcoming production of Macbeth!