Luke Skywalker and Hamlet: Parallel Journeys
Star Wars by George Lucas has many parallels with William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The movie of George Lucas may appear entirely different from Hamlet at the first look; however, various similarities can be found between them if one looks closer. The driving action for both stories can be used for drawing comparisons and contrasts between the two stories. This paper presents similarities and contrasting features between the stories of Hamlet and Star Wars. The major parallel between them can be drawn by analyzing the journey pursued by Hamlet and Luke Sky Walker. Both characters pursue the journey of avenging their fathers’ death; however, the differences exist between the two in what happens to them at the end of their stories.
One can compare the role of the ghost in Hamlet and the spirit in Star Wars to draw parallels between the two stories. An important role is being played by ghosts in Star Wars and Hamlet, for example, how the plot develops with the notion of revenge for a father. In both stories, a ghost ends up as a major part of the story. In Shakespeare’s story, the Hamlet’s father murdered recently, is the one whose ghost in the form of a spirit keeps playing his part. The murdered father was the ruler of Denmark whose spirit keeps playing his role in the story. The ghost of his father tells him: “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (1. 5. 25). As Hamlet’s father reveals the truth of his uncle who murdered him, Hamlet sets himself on the path of revenge against his uncle who is also his step-father. The whole story then revolves around Hamlet comes to know about his uncle killing his father and him seeking revenge against his step-father. The driving action in the story of Hamlet is being offered by the ghost of Hamlet’s father. One can easily see in the story of Hamlet that the role of a ghost is very crucial as it is it that sets Hamlet on the path of revenge against Claudius. In comparison, the role of the ghost in the Star Wars has an impact in an entirely different manner. The ghost in the story of Star Wars is more of a mentor and guide to the living character. In episode four of Star Wars, Darth Vader kills the character Obi Wan physically. However, as he predicts, he will remain alive in the form of a force after his death. He lives as a ghost in the story and keeps on guiding the central Jedi of the story. Obi Wan told Darth Vader “If you strike me down now I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine” (Lucas). So, Obi Wan appears as a ghost in the story later and keeps on guiding the young Luke Skywalker in his journey as a Jedi. He keeps on giving him useful advice and guides him throughout his journey, keeping him calm and focused as the situation demands from him. The same thing is experienced in later episodes of Star Wars when the spirit of Master Yodha keeps on appearing to guide Luke Sky Walker in his time of need. In “The Last Jedi” when Rey comes to Luke Skywalker for guidance about the control of the Force and how to fight against the Dark Force, the ghost of Master Yodha enlightens Luke about the direction he could follow to do the right thing.
The overarching theme of a father’s revenge in Hamlet and Star Wars offers an area where similarities can be drawn. Young Luke Sky Walker in the story of Star Wars was trained to fight with all his power against the Galactic Empire, yet he pursues revenge for his father’s death because he thought Darth Vader killed his father. He seeks revenge against Darth Vader by killing him for the death of his father. His ultimate goal becomes the revenge of his father’s death. This is what happens in the story of Hamlet as he seeks revenge against the killer of his father, Claudius. But the difference between two tales lies in Claudius actually killing the father of Hamlet and marrying his wife. In the story of Star Wars, Luke turns out to be wrong as he discovers that Darth Vader is his father himself who ends up in giving into the negative side of the Force and serving the Dark Lord. Darth Vader reveals the truth to Luke when both characters confront each other: “Luke, I am your father” (Lucas). However, it is Darth Vader who kills the good part of Anakin and makes him become Darth Vader. Obi explains this to Luke early in the story, “father was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed” (Lucas). So, the good side of Anakin is killed by Darth Vader when he gives in to the dark side of the Force and serves the Sith Lord. This is what is done by Claudius in the story of Hamlet, though it is done differently in both stories. In one story, the father of the main character is killed in the literal sense by some other person, whereas in Star Wars, the dark side of Anakin kills his good side resulting in him becoming Darth Vader who is a mere puppet in the hands of Sith Lord.
The confrontation between the character seeking revenge and the one against whom revenge is being sought presents another area of similarity between the two stories. Darth Vader confronted by Luke Skywalker in the pursuit is similar to the confrontation between the Hamlet and his father by the end of play. However, the contrasting feature between the two exists in the fact that one story ends in a tragedy where everyone around Hamlet dies and even the entire kingdom is ruined because of the path he has chosen to avenge his father. In the story of Star Wars, the ending turns out to be a happy one for Luke Skywalker as he realizes that there is still something good left in his father when he confronted him. Luke sparks the light within his father and makes his good part feel alive again. Although he brings Anakin back to life for a brief duration, he finds peace in knowing that his father joined his ancestors on the positive side of the Force. Instead of avenging his father, Anakin chooses to rescue him from the Dark Side and to bring him to the positive side of the Force again. Anakin dies in saving his son; however, he finds peace after dying as he joins Obi Wan and Master Yodha as a spirit. So, the major contrasting feature of the two stories exists in how these stories ended differently.
The ending of both stories for two of the main characters such as Luke and Hamlet is nearly the same because both find out the truth and realize the reality of the course that they have been following. Luke realizes that by seeking revenge he is tempted towards the Dark Side of the Force and losing the good in him. Hamlet realizes towards the end of the story that his uncle is sorry for his deeds although his heart seeks revenge against him for the death of his father. If we look at the episode where Padme dies in Star Wars, similarity can be found with the story of Hamlet because the Queen and Padme both die for their children’s lives. Padme dies due to Anakin losing his temper while she brings two lives into this world. Queen Gertrude dies because of the poison that is meant for her son. The tragic ways both these women die by the hand of their husbands presents another dimension of similarity between the two tales.
From the comparison of Star Wars and Hamlet, it is concluded that striking similarities exist between the two stories. However, differences exist between them in how things end for the main characters and how the truth reveals itself to them. These stories are parallel, both similar and different.
Shakespeare, William, Marilyn Eisenstat, and Ken Roy. Hamlet. Toronto: Harcourt Canada, 2003. Print.
Lucas, George, et al. Star Wars, Episode III, Revenge of the Sith. 20th Century Fox, 2005.