Shakespeare & Popular Culture
Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
IN POPULAR CULTURE
In addition to the intentional reliances upon Shakespeare, we have incorporated the Elizabethan ideological repertoire, often unconsciously, into our culture.
There are tons. See, for example, here.
You can’t swing a dead cat withoutbonking into a “construct-your-own-Shakespearean-insult”device: a web page, refrigerator magnets, toy contraptions, circulatinge-mail, etc. A plague on’t!
Here’s one online:
The Shakespeare Insult Server
One suspects that this phenomenonis linked with the “Bits & Pieces” sound-bite would-bewisdom flooding our print landscape: little nuggets extractedfrom any context whatsoever (including Shakespeare too again)and posturing as deep insight. Anymore around here, it’s likePolonius exploded.
Anyway, the insult kit is naturallymore dynamic because it gives people a more dignified vocabularyfor their colossal road-rage on the donkey-path of life. Otherwisewe’d all just be “big, dumb, butt-heads.” Now we’re”pribbling, hedge-born clotpoles.”
“Shakespeare is good in English, but you need to read him in the original Klingon….”
And you can, thanks to the Klingon Shakespeare Restoration Project.
Former English 305 student Sean Hall plunged into the intricate relationships between Shakespeare and Star Trek, and he reports here.
THE LION KING
The opening sequence of The LionKing is a useful if odd popular cultural artifact for showingsomewhat Shakespearean themes and the political context. The filmmakes no sense in terms of animal behavior and reflects a politicalsystem Americans are not supposed to believe in. So where is thiscoming from? Politically, the court structure has nothing to dowith lions, nor do the messianic aspects. The monkey who anointsthe cub functions like an Archbishop of Canterbury at a royalcourt. We get instead iconic (God-) Sun-King implications.
The “circle of life” blurssomehow with the Great Chain of Being: the supposedly naturalhierarchy (cp. Julius Caesar I.1.115f). Lions eatbaboons. In fact, all the animals cheering their new lord areon his menu.
From then on, for reflections ofthe Body Politic, see Henry IV.2, Hamlet (I.iii.17f,I.ii.135, I.iv.89), Richard II, and Richard III.Scar is Richard III. The regicide/fratricide comes from Hamlet.
The plot centers on Primogeniture.Birthright carries princely responsibility and you can’t get outof it. Your worth is innate vs. earned; you may attempt to optout as do Prince Hal and this lion; but the Hakuna Matata daysare soon over. One difference is that Falstaff is not broughtinto the kingdom in the end as Pumbaa and Timon are. Disney isone weird mamma-jamma.