Hamlet, as we are all aware is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare around the 1600s. The Lion King is a 1994 animated musical film, produced by Walt Disney Animation, which was influenced by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, whose plot I’m sure we are all familiar with. Coraline is a 2009 American stop-motion dark fantasy film produced by Laika and depicts an adventurous girl finding an idealized parallel world behind a secret door in her new home, unaware that the alternate world contains a dark and sinister evil version of her mother.
Just Lion King:
Jumping into literary moves unique to the Lion king. In the lion king, foreshadowing is used when Simba sings “I just can’t wait to be king.” This song hints that he will in fact be king soon because his father was killed by Scar. This makes the audience sympathize with Simba and feel bad once he gets what he was singing for since he is in a helpless position. Because the audience knows that scar is the one responsible for this, they cannot help but feel angry at scar for putting a young cub in that position and so the viewers mentally justify simba’s actions of revenge as being right. Similarly, dramatic irony (Irony that occurs when the meaning of the situation is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the work) conveys the same meaning. Throughout most of The Lion King, Simba mopes around feeling guilty for his father’s death, unaware (as the audience is) that Scar actually killed Mufasa. These literary devices of storytelling impact how the audience feels towards the characters and their actions.
The use of colors is a very significant literary move in Coraline: When the Other Mother builds a world to tempt Coraline, she fills it with lush, warm colors and textures. The delicious food, the wallpaper, furniture, clothing, and plants of the other World make the viewer feel warm and comfortable. Once Coraline realizes the true intention of the mother, she becomes fearful and the colors become dark green and somber to reflect her mood. This change in colors paints the mother in a negative light which makes the audience cheer Coraline on her quest for justice as she takes down the mother.
Lion King and Hamlet
In both the lion king and hamlet, character foil is used to convey meaning. The use of character foil acts as a form of juxtaposition between two characters and reflects the qualities of one through the other. In Shakespeare’s work, Claudius and Hamlet are foils since Claudius is everything that hamlet is not. While Hamlet hates deception, Claudius is the embodiment of it. Likewise, Hamlet values truth and honesty while Claudius lies often. This can be demonstrated when Claudius says in Act 1 scene 1 “this gentle and unforced accord of hamlet sits smiling to my heart” This quote highlights Claudius’s deceptive nature which is the complete opposite of Hamlet, since he does not actually want Hamlet to stay in Denmark. Because Claudius acts as Hamlet’s foil, he brings out some of the good qualities in Hamlet making the audience view Claudius as the antagonist and further justifying Hamlet’s decision to kill him. Just like how Hamlet and Claudius are foils Scar illuminates the qualities of Simba by showing how honest, brave and trustworthy he is. Compared to Scar’s terrible actions of killing Mufasa and leading the clan through lies and treachery, the audience, again, sides with the protagonist.
Also, apostrophe (or breaking the fourth wall) is seen in both the lion king and hamlet. Apostrophe is speaking directly to or acknowledging the audience in some way. The “fourth wall” refers to the imaginary “wall” at the front of the stage in a traditional three-walled box set in a theater, and this is broken down in The Lion King when Timon cuts off Pumbaa in the middle of the song and says “Pumbaa, not in front of the kids!” this acts as a way of telling the audience that the characters recognize their presence and are able to convey meaning to the audience directly. Similarly, in hamlet, hamlet detaches himself from reality by addressing an imaginary character in his speech–which shows that he is stressed and needs to think out loud. In act 2 scene 2 Hamlet is self-deprecating as he says “Oh, what a mean low-life I am!” and “Oh, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!” This speaking towards an unknown being breaks down the fourth wall and makes the audience feel as though he is talking to them which establishes empathy and connection making the audience understand that he is a troubled character and why he might want revenge.
Parallels are also seen between Coraline and the Lion King in the form of camera close ups. In times of realization, a close up on the character’s face is used to show just how surprised and affected the character is emotionally. This terror of realization is emulated in the audience so that they feel with the main character and cheer them on their next course of action. For example, when Mufasa tells simba to take back the throne, a close up is made on Simba’s face, and the audience feels empathy and almost agrees that Simba is justified in overtaking the throne and getting revenge. This clip also shows a close up of Coraline’s face at a key moment of terror and realization, which works the audience’s emotion in the same way–and makes them feel just as afraid of the antagonist as the main characters are–making the audience want to get revenge on them just as much as the main characters do. :
Likewise, similar literary devices are seen between hamlet and Coraline, such as through the use of music to set the tone.
In Coraline, dramatic music works to play with the emotion of the audience so that they share in the stress and fear of the protagonist. Creating the same emotions that the main character feels allows a personal connection to be made between us and Coraline, and that allows us to understand why she needs to destroy the mother–justifying her need for justice.. This clip demonstrates just that:
In the scenes of Hamlet, there is less music used compared to the movies Coraline and the Lion King. Therefore, the specific tone and word choice of the characters acts as a means of sharing emotion with the audience. Hamlet’s monologues are full of angry words as strings of angry adjectives are attached to the king. In act 2 scene 2, hamlet uses alliteration as he says “The king is a treacherous, kindless, bloody, bawdy villain!” As Hamlet’s anger both at the king and himself radiates from the speech, so does his inner confusion. In this way, the audience is able to understand where Hamlet’s emotions stem from, and the need for revenge is justified.
Personification is also used in both Hamlet and Coraline in order to bring up emotion in the audience. In Hamlet, The use of personification works as a way of making the audience more aware of Claudius’s terrible action of killing his father. In Act 2 scene 2, hamlet says “For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak” which basically is saying that the crime will speak through his facial expressions. This paints Claudius as the bad guy, and so the viewer is able to have negative feelings towards him and side with hamlet in his decision to kill Claudius.
Personification in Coraline is used slightly differently, as a main character and friend of the protagonist, a black cat, speaks in order to give helpful advice to her–ultimately saving her life. In this way, the audience establishes a personal connection with the cat which makes us cheer on Coraline just as he does.
lso, the shot angle in coraline and Hamlet convey meaning to the audience through visual effects.
In Coraline, the camera angle is often shot from below to make the mother appear powerful and in control. It is almost as if the viewer is looking up at the mother out of fear and obedience, since she is superior. This shot tends to portray the mom as evil and controlling, which impacts how the meaning of the movie is conveyed by making those watching the movie realize that the character is an evil one which deserves to be taken down and defeated.
Likewise, during Hamlet’s monologues, the varying shot angles coupled with the absence of direct light on the speaker creates a feeling of despair and madness which translates to the audience. Hamlet is not even shown entirely because he does not feel whole as he is confused and unsure of his next course of actions and the actions of those around him. The following clip highlights just that:
Similar to the way Hamlet’s father appears as a ghost and tells Hamlet to take revenge on his uncle. Mufasa appears to Simba in the stars and tells him to take his proper place in the circle of life as king while coraline is instructed by ghosts of the past to defeat the evil mother. Simba fights with Scar, who ends up being killed by the hyenas. Coraline’s evil mother is destroyed by being forever locked in her world. Hamlet kills his uncle with a sword and poisoned wine.
We have examined Hamlet: a dense shakespearean work meant for an educated audience. The Lion King: a lighthearted animation for all ages, and Coraline:a dark stop motion movie meant for more mature viewers. Each of these movies follow similar plots, but they all take on different methods of storytelling to impact how meaning is conveyed–in this case, the justification of revenge and delivering justice. These works allow the audience to sympathize with the main character and mentally justify their actions in an artistic and subtle way. These works force us to not only think about the actions of the main characters of these fictional pieces, but also let us reflect upon ourselves and wonder “How different are we from these characters anyway?”