A Brief Commentary on ‘Thor’ (2011) As An Allusion to Shakespearean Dramas

Being labeled as a product of Marvel Studios, it is inevitable that most will view Thor as a typical summer blockbuster released for no other purposes than mere entertainment and amusement. However, a notable aspect worth mentioning within the crew is no doubt the presence of Kenneth Branagh, acclaimed director and actor, most famous for his co-founding of the Renaissance Theatre Company. This company put forth a plethora of Shakespearean dramas in which he acted and directed, garnering Oscar nominations for adaptations such as Hamlet and Henry V, though being particularly excellent in other adaptations such as Othello and Much Ado About Nothing. Marvel Studio executives, therefore, deserve a bit of praise for their decision making on hiring Branagh, for the director’s experience and knowledge with Shakespearean dramas only contributes positively in the enhancement and development of a story and a character as complex as Thor.

Let’s first examine the story of Thor, an intricate character first derived from the mind of Stan Lee in August 1962 as a part of Marvel Comics. Stan Lee created a depiction of a Norse legend, a god who is exiled from his homeland due to his lack of humility and his utter defiance of authority. Over a period of time, his mortal body proves weak and he becomes to think of Earth as his home, thus learning to become a member of society through the weaknesses he now embraces. However, the comic implements something the film does not: Thor’s alter-ego Donald Blake, a doctor. Beyond that, the main concepts are still served justice with Odin and Loki serving as key factors in the plot.

Now, we must travel back to the days of Renaissance Literature and further examine the allusion Thor offers when pondering Shakespearean Dramas such as Macbeth and Hamlet. Throughout these two plays, a common theme classically done by Shakespeare, worth examination here, is that of the fight to the throne. Though not prevalent in the two dramas listed above, sibling rivalry finds it’s home within works such as King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew, Richard III and As You Like It.  The idea of fighting for the throne, complemented with the notion of sibling rivalry, makes up the basic structure of Thor when looked at from a Renaissance perspective. For these Norse legends and mythology were of heavy influence within the Elizabethan Era of England, they therefore serve as steady foundation for a proper allusion to Shakespeare’s plays.

Thor and Loki are both considered qualified and worthy successors and heirs to the throne of current King Odin. The aging father, now looking to end his reign full of bloodshed for that of a peaceful era set forth by his last few years and followed by his sucessor, whomever that may be. However, Thor is arrogant. His disobedient nature causes his exile, leaving Loki to the throne. War is unleashed and mass genocide becomes a legitimate threat. Thor, stranded on Earth, has no means of which to protect his home and defend the realms of the universe. Nevertheless, his acceptance of this fact brings about his humility, for his lack of strength gives him reason to cherish what he does have, as opposed to what he does not. This humbleness brings his hammer back to his possession, granting forth his power and his godliness, though not entirely ridding himself of his humanity, for the humility he gained remains a prevalent trait in defeating Loki. We are, thus, shown a contrast between Shakespearean concepts and the story of Thor. While attempting to gain the throne usually brings about the protagonist’s downfall in plays such as Macbeth or Hamlet, the succession to the throne actually improves Thor’s personality as he learns what it truly takes to rule as a just king. Similarly, we are given representations or microcosms of society through these kings or protagonists attempting to reach royalty. For example, the state of the king, either melancholic or positive is reflected back in country affairs or even daily weather. Any catastrophic event or natural disaster usually implies an unbalance in the government, hinting at an unfair reign.

In juxtaposition to Thor, Loki’s rule brings about the joining of the Frost Giants into Asgard, bringing about freezing temperatures into an otherwise warm and peaceful heavenly landscape. The sibling rivalry at hand demonstrates a complimented feature of power and greed. In trying to prove himself as a just king, Loki attempts mass genocide as a method of achieving peace, though Thor sees it as cruel and unnecessary, seeing an avoidance of war and violence as the only way to unite the realms in harmony. Sibling rivalry in Shakespeare demonstrates similar qualities. Most common is the jealousy attribute and the will to steal what the other sibling possesses. This usually serves a metaphoric purpose, prevalent within families of royalty in Shakespeare’s dramas, fighting for the throne regardless of standardized relationships. Now, it is within all these qualities that the exterior surface of Thor may be revealed in pertaining much more heavily to Shakespearean literature as opposed to merely a fascination with explosions or violence.

Thank you for reading,

Omar Antonio Iturriaga