Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Is Spider-Man 2 a Derivative Version of Hamlet?

Spider-Man 2
. Dir. Sam Raimi. Perf. Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, and Alfred Molina. 2004. DVD. CTV, 2014.

The short answer is, I think, "No." But an alert student requested repeatedly that I consider it.

Having a little time on my hands, I watched the film. Having not too much time on my hands, I watched it at twice to thrice the speed with the subtitles on.

I may thus have missed some subtleties.

I know I miss other things because I know just enough to make sure the hyphen is in the right place but not enough to know the details of any particular manifestation of the stories.

Watching this one, I got the feeling that the student might be on to something—though it wasn't Hamlet.  It was Merchant of Venice. Here's Peter Parker's paraphrase of Shylock's famous speech:

Well, sort of.

A bit later, things become a bit more Hamlet-y. Harry Osborn believes that Spider-Man killed his father (who was the Green Goblin). Indeed, he says as much—like either Hamlet could have said to Claudius or Laertes could have said to Hamlet:

Then, paraphrasing (?) Hamlet's "more things in heaven and earth" line to Horatio. Peter Parker says this:

Without being primed with the idea that something akin to Hamlet is happening, I'm not sure I would have noticed any of that.

But then we get a scene close to the end of the film.

A father's ghost appears to a son and calls that son to revenge:

All right. That doesn't make the film a derivative of Hamlet or Harry a Hamlet analogue, but it is something, and I enjoyed it. It remains to be seen whether I'll be able to work that in to any further Shakespeare and film classes, but I'm not shouting "No!" at the idea.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Bonus Images: The Ghost's Demands:


Duane Morin said...

I asked ChatGPT whether Spider-man 2 could be considered in any way to be derivative of Hamlet. It said no. Then I asked it to pretend to be a college student and write a thesis on the premise. Here's what I got:

Title: Exploring the Parallels: Hamlet's Influence on Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man 2"

This thesis examines the intriguing parallels between William Shakespeare's renowned tragedy "Hamlet" and Sam Raimi's superhero film "Spider-Man 2." While these works exist in different genres and time periods, a careful analysis reveals striking thematic similarities that suggest a subtle influence of "Hamlet" on Raimi's film. This study explores the shared themes of identity, moral dilemma, and the burden of responsibility, ultimately demonstrating how "Spider-Man 2" draws upon the timeless tragedy of "Hamlet" to enhance its narrative depth and emotional resonance.

"Hamlet," Shakespeare's iconic play, has captivated audiences for centuries with its exploration of internal conflicts and moral dilemmas. Similarly, Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man 2" stands as a superhero film that transcends its genre, delving into the complex psyche of its protagonist, Peter Parker. By examining the thematic elements shared between these two works, this thesis aims to shed light on the subtle but significant influence of "Hamlet" on "Spider-Man 2."

1. The Quest for Identity:
Both "Hamlet" and "Spider-Man 2" place a strong emphasis on the protagonist's search for identity. In "Hamlet," Prince Hamlet grapples with his own sense of self in the wake of his father's murder. Similarly, Peter Parker, in "Spider-Man 2," struggles with his dual identity as the ordinary Peter and the extraordinary Spider-Man. Both characters undergo internal conflicts, questioning their roles and the expectations imposed upon them.

2. Moral Dilemmas and Difficult Choices:
Another notable parallel between the two works lies in the exploration of moral dilemmas. In "Hamlet," the eponymous character is torn between avenging his father's death and the moral consequences of his actions. Likewise, Peter Parker faces a similar predicament in "Spider-Man 2," as he grapples with the responsibility of using his powers for the greater good while sacrificing his personal desires. The burden of making difficult choices becomes a central theme that resonates in both narratives.

3. The Weight of Responsibility:
"Hamlet" and "Spider-Man 2" also share a profound exploration of the burden of responsibility. Hamlet is burdened by the weight of avenging his father's murder, a responsibility that consumes him. Similarly, Peter Parker is burdened by the responsibility of protecting the city as Spider-Man, often at the expense of his personal life and relationships. The internal struggle to navigate the expectations and consequences of their respective responsibilities becomes a driving force in both narratives.

Although Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man 2" and Shakespeare's "Hamlet" exist in different genres and mediums, their thematic similarities are too significant to be dismissed as mere coincidence. The quest for identity, moral dilemmas, and the burden of responsibility emerge as shared motifs in both works. By drawing upon the timeless tragedy of "Hamlet," Raimi enriches the narrative depth and emotional resonance of "Spider-Man 2." This analysis highlights the enduring influence of Shakespeare's masterpiece and demonstrates how it continues to inspire and inform contemporary storytelling in diverse forms.

kj said...

And that's how you can tell that Bardfilm isn't written by artificial intelligence. All the intelligence—or lack thereof—is 100% natural.

"This analysis highlights the enduring influence of Shakespeare's masterpiece and demonstrates how it continues to inspire and inform contemporary storytelling in diverse forms."

Ummmmm . . . no, it doesn't.

In short, that's a terrible paper. The lack of any meaningful specificity is one major flaw.

But ChatGPT doesn't have access to the very latest from the internet. Maybe it will get better once it reads this post!

Thanks, Duane Morin!

kj (Bardfilm)

Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2039 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

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