The Lion King - An Epic Tragedy

The Lion King - An Epic Tragedy

TLK was based on the play Hamlet, so is it a Tragedy?

Hi. I wrote this for an English essay, and I thought it would make a good article on here. It explains how The Lion King is a Tragedy, even though it may not seem like it. First off, I'd like to thank the good people at Disney for making The Lion King: 2 Disc Special Addition, which is where I got most of this information from. Thanks guys!


Now, without further ado...

A tragedy is a story about a serious misfortune that happens to the main character, which most of the time, is not an accident. This misfortune is brought about by a combination of the character's actions, or other character's actions, and fate. And the tragic hero must posses specific characteristics; nobility and dignity. It is for these reasons why I think, despite it being unlikely on first glance, that The Lion King is in some ways, a tragedy.

The Lion King was based on Shakespeare's tragedy, Hamlet, and the makers of the film were able to get this influence into the movie. It includes many of the tragic themes needed, like betrayal, redemption, family, disruption of the natural order and evil. Betrayal is probably the most common theme in a tragedy, as it is this single act that could bring on the death or serious misfortune that a tragedy needs. In The Lion King, it is Scar who betrays Mufasa and throws him off a cliff, and then Simba by blaming it on him. Not only is this character evil, but he is also royalty. And Shakespeare's tragedies mainly focus around betrayal in the family, especially if that family is royal (e.g. King Lear).


Redemption is another big theme in tragedy, because it shows the character trying to reclaim what has been taken from him/her, like a family member or kingdom. In The Lion King, it is Simba who is trying to reclaim his kingdom which had been taken from him through his father's death. Disruption of the natural order isn't shown as much in a tragedy, but I think it has really been shown in The Lion King. After Mufasa's death, and Scar takes the throne, the whole circle of life and natural order is disrupted by the hyenas coming to the Pride Lands and scaring all the prey away. And because of that, the land becomes ruined and dark, like a tragic scene should look.


The film deals with death, and shows the character dealing with the bottom run of life. In a tragedy, the character needs to deal with death, whether that be the death of his/her friends and family, or their own death. Death is the main traumatic event in a tragedy that a character is effected by and has to deal with, and in time, has to accept. The film shows Simba dealing with his father's death, and not only that, but the guilt that he may well have caused it. This event is kind of like an emotional breakdown that involves overwhelming feelings of sorrow and pity, but it also brings about an extreme change in emotion that resulted in Simba's guilt for his father's death, and wanting to live away from his family than having to face them.


The film takes us on a journey that confronts our greatest hopes and fears, just like Shakespeare intended with most of his plays, including Hamlet. The greatest hopes are reflected through the 'taking of responsibility' theme the film has, where Simba takes his father's place as king. And in life, people want to follow in their parent's footsteps, and it is one of their greatest hopes. But because this is a tragedy, it also has to confront our greatest fears, as well. And in The Lion King, this great fear is death and guilt, especially to a small child having to witness their parent's death. The worst fear a small child can have is having their parents taken away from them, mostly through this act of death. The Lion King confronts these fears, as it is the young character, Simba, who has to witness his father's death. And through this, the film exposes the suffering we inflict and the suffering we bear.

Tragedies probe the extremities of what it means to be human. What we have to go through in life, and what joys and sorrows we have to experience. The film may have been made to be about animals, but it's really about us, and the story of what we have to experience as humans. It shows that no matter how dark and hopeless things get, everything will be all right in the end, and that the human spirit will rise above it. And through this, not only does the character have a moral growth, but the audience does as well.

The film is an epic tragedy. The story is on a very large scale which focuses on the hero, and stresses the nobility of this hero. Like I said above, the film raises questions about life, and what horrors it has, and how we have to get through these horrors. A lot of conventional social bonds are broken in this film, the main one being Simba's friendship with Timon and Pumba. In normal circumstances, these two would be Simba's lunch, but instead, they become his loyal friends who he's willing to protect, as shown through his fight with Nala.


The Lion King is a tragedy that was hopeful. Unlike most tragedies, where the main character dies, Simba lives on to take his rightful place as king, which in some ways doesn't make the film a tragedy. But because of the film's other qualities, I think that it remains a tragedy in the way it was written. This is because of the echoes of Hamlet the film has on many different levels, including the evil uncle, the betrayal, the death of the father and the return of the son. The film even has a 'to be, or not to be' scene, where Mufasa returns and tells Simba to take his rightful place as king. And it's when Mufasa leaves and Simba is left sitting there, that the words 'to be, or not to be' echo around the scene.

Please review and tell me how I did.

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May 16, 2012
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Thanks alot, that has helped me loads for my movie class in China

moon kitty
March 11, 2012
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Thanks, a very inspiring essay!

lioness jhr
April 13, 2011
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I so need to show that to some people I know that hate The lion king, it will be :red: for them!lol

November 19, 2009
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Well, I hope you got an A+ on this essay. It is true what you said about The Lion King being and epic tragedy, and on largely based on Shakespeare. In fact, all of the Lion King movies draw on inspiration from Shakespeare's plays. ( see my article Shakespeare in the Lion King, [...] ion_King/94323.html&id_film=13 ). In fact it can be likened even further to one of his plays called Macbeth, in which King Duncan is Mufasa, Scar is Macbeth, Rafiki is somewhat Macduff, and Simba is Malcolm. Good work!

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