The Shadows of ‘Hamlet’ in ‘Sons of Anarchy’

The croaking raven doth bellow for revenge.
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Netflix is a detriment to the productive. Of course, we shouldn’t blame our marathon t.v. and movie watching on the streaming site, but they sure have given us quite the little time waster. Now, it’s not all bad. We writers can spend hours on the site “researching,” watching films and shows that exhibit the best and the worst on plot, character development and the beauty behind the three act structure.

But let me not offer you a litany of pseudo excuses. This weekend, our household got zero accomplished because we were watching “Sons of Anarchy.”  We’d seen one, maybe two episode last year, but since we hadn’t been invested from the beginning, we forgot to watch the next week or, I’m sure, got sidetracked by something else on NetFlix. However, Friday night we sat down and watched from the beginning and what had started out as some lame boast about “only watching the pilot” turned into a sleepless, obsessive marathon.

For the uninformed, “Sons of Anarchy” follows protagonist Jax Teller, Vice President of a close-knit outlaw motorcycle club operating in Charming, a fictional town in California’s Central Valley. Jax’s father, John Teller, was a founding member of the club, SAMCRO or (Sam Crow- Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood). John was killed when Jax was a teen and his father’s best friend, Clay and his mother, Gemma, married and Clay took over as President of SAMCRO.

In the pilot, Jax comes across a manifesto his father wrote prior to his death that explained his initial intention for the club and how and why they had drifted away from their purposes. His wish was for Jax to not follow in his footsteps. He wanted his life to be outside of the club. It is this manifesto and later discoveries that prompts Jax to steer the club in a different direction; to realize the goals his father had intentioned.

Clay and Gemma have a problem with that.

Sound familiar? It should. Familial betrayal and the rule over a “kingdom” is something Shakespeare wrote about in Hamlet and while series creator, Kurt Sutter,  doesn’t believe SoA is a direct interpretation of the play, he does admit that there are similarities:

I don’t want to overplay that but it’s there. It was Jax’s father who started the club, so he’s the ghost in the action. You wonder what he would have made of the way it turned out. It’s not a version of Hamlet but it’s definitely influenced by it.”

But those “similarities” are certainly plenty. In the following, we detail just a few of the most obvious. Tell us what you think about this loose incarnation of Shakespeare’s play in the comments below!

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