The Breadcrumbs widget will appear here on the published site.
A Modern Day Hamlet?
By Misty Thomas
When “Sons of Anarchy” first premiered, I had yet to give in to becoming addicted to another television show. A friend of mine, Melissa, had told me over and over again just how great it was. When I realized that it was on Netflix, I decided to watch the first episode. About ten hours later on a lazy Sunday, I was hooked. I was hooked on the characters, the dreamy men in leather, and the brilliance of the strong female characters. More than any of these things however, I was hooked on the fact that there were these underlying similarities to Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”
I decided to do a little research of my own. After doing so, I found that the creator and writer, Kurt Sutter, has loosely based the show on “Hamlet.” The similarities are impeccable and this has spawned my love for this show just as my love for “Hamlet” has grown through watching the show and doing some more research of my own.
“When sorrows come, they come not single spies. But in battalions!”
The show takes place in a town in California called Charming. It has quite the diverse popular from crooked politicians to Hispanics to African-Americans to good Christian folk to families to crooked cops to Neo-Nazis, to motorcycle gangs—you name it! This town has it! Charming would be the modern day kingdom of Denmark. With any kingdom, however, you need a royal court.
Charming’s royal court is led by the newly crowned king, Clay, who is now the president of the motorcycle club, the Sons of Anarchy. His step-son, Jax, is the vice president of the club and the son of the past king, John Teller. Jax is pretty much Hamlet. The great part is, he is actually referred to as the prince quite a few times in the show. He is still in pain from his father’s death and will soon come to find out that his step-father, Clay, had a hand in it. Are you following the references yet?
The loves of Clay and Jax’s lives most likely represent Queen Gertrude and Ophelia. Gemma is Jax’s mother and is married to Clay. She has been the glue that has held the motorcycle club together and serves them as a mother, a sister, and a bit of a devious servant. She is a warrior and will stop at nothing to make the men that she loves happy. Tara, Jax’s wife, can be seen as Ophelia. They were young loves in the past and she came back into his life when she moved back to Charming. There is a lot underlying tension with the two of them and she is constantly battling the fact that she think she may love Jax more than he loves her. Ophelia had this battle with Hamlet as well until she went completely mad, which I see Tara doing already!
“Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”
The ghost of Hamlet’s father is constantly around him and trying to show him how he died so he can avenge his father’s death. In “Sons of Anarchy,” Jax finds a journal of his father’s and letters that he had written describing incidents that had happened in the motorcycle club. These journal entries and letters serve as his father’s ghost trying to tell him that Clay is really the one who was behind his death. King Clay also follows Claudius by putting on many hits on people to protect his kingdom, i.e. the Sons of Anarchy.
The show deals with so many other topics brought up in “Hamlet.” In Ireland, Jax almost has sex with his half-sister, which tackles the idea of incest which was also addressed in “Hamlet.” Death, violence, scandal, corruption, and dirty family secrets all come out in the storyline of the show just as they did in one of Shakespeare’s greatest works.
“ I promise to treat you as good as my leather and ride you as hard as my Harley.”
I personally see most of the Hamlet similarities in the fourth season. Most of them are very blatant. There are two episodes titled “To Be” that close out the season and in the fifth season, there is an episode called “To Thine Own Self.” Clearly, Sutter has decided to begin to incorporate more of the similarities into the show. As the new season is slowly approaching us, I begin to wonder just how similar it will end, because in “Hamlet”…Everyone eventually dies. Just some food for thought.