A Daily Dose of Shakespeare: Hamlet in Pop Culture

By Elspeth Sweatman

When you studied Hamlet in high school, you may have seen footage of accomplished stage and screen actors such as Kenneth Branagh, Mel Gibson, and Ethan Hawke playing the tragic title role. But, did you know that Shakespeare’s tale has become such a part of our popular culture that you almost get a daily dose of Hamlet? Here are a few of our favorite adaptations, references, and parodies of the Bard’s most famous play.

Mel Gibson teamed up with Elmo in 1994 for the Sesame Street segment “Monsterpiece Theater.”

The Simpsons devoted an entire episode to an adaptation of Hamlet in 2002. Hamlet is played by Bart, Claudius by Moe, and Laertes by Ralph Wiggum. According to The Simpsons’s supervising producer Don Payne, the Royal Shakespeare Company cast of Hamlet (2008)—starring David Tennant—watched this episode at its first rehearsal. 

There are several Star Trek episodes named after Hamlet: “The Conscience of the King,” “Remember Me,” and “Thine Own Self.” And Shakespeare’s play has even been translated into Klingon. 

"To be or not to be" in Klingon. Photo courtesy of Sean Hall.
If you’re more of a reader, here are a few books based on Hamlet to fill your bookshelves: Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike, Hamlet by John Marsden, Nutshell by Ian McEwan, and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut.

runs September 20–October 15 at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater. Click here to purchase tickets through our website.

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