How Hamlet Haunts Sons of Anarchy

Outrageous Fortune:

How Hamlet Haunts the Sons of Anarchy


Kurt Sutter mentioned that Sons of Anarchy was meant to have the subtext of a Shakespearean Tragedy, particularly Hamlet.  As Hamlet opens with the death of the King, Sons of Anarchy opens after the death of John Teller, the King of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club. Jax is the proverbial Hamlet of this modern retelling of the Bard’s tale. That would make Clay Claudius and Gemma Gertrude. Their names even start with same letters! Coincidence? I think not. And Tara is, of course, the doomed Ophelia.


We find out through season three and four that Clay had John Teller murdered in much the same way that Claudius put poison in his brother’s ear. Clay wasn’t near as subtle though. Nope. He was about as subtle as an eighteen wheeler—literally. A truck driver hit Teller on purpose so that Clay could become president of the Motorcycle club and marry Teller’s widow Gemma. As Claudius dies in Hamlet, so too does Clay. Hamlet stabs his murderous father in law, while Jax shoots his father in law in the throat.

Motor Cycle Mama

Gemma is not the frail naive Gertrude of yesteryear. She is a biker chick and matriarch of a crime family.  To play Gemma as sweet and innocent in that world wouldn’t work. She has to be tough as nails and she is. Gemma schemes, plots and manipulates things so that her husband Clay and son Jax stay safe. She is not above threats and out and out violence. We see that when she shoots someone at the end of season three.  In season six she is a fierce mother who kills Tara thinking Tara betrayed her son and their outlaw family.


Tara is not the mad woman of Hamlet’s heart. She is but a supporting character or a mirror for Hamlet in the play. In the Sons of Anarchy world she learns to be tough. We see her transform throughout the seasons. The moment she punches her boss and threatens her, we know she has been taking plays right from her mother-in-law’s playbook. When Tara is kidnapped because of her association with the Motorcycle Club, she even kills her captor in order to gain the upper hand in the situation.  Her madness is not seen as a weakness, but strength.


In Hamlet, Hamlet and Ophelia appear to have a relationship, but they never make to the point where they get married and have children together. It is likely that Hamlet and Ophelia have merely courted or dated, but that it has not yet blossomed into the romance it was meant to be due to all plotting and murdering and whatnot. Because Sons of Anarchy takes place in the modern age and because it is spread out over seven seasons instead of two hours, it makes sense to have Jax and Tara married and have a child together.


Realizing that the Motorcycle Club and even her own husband Jax is a threat to her kids, Tara takes off with the boys in Season six. We see her become a lioness in her own right. She wants to prevent more tragedies from occurring.  She doesn’t want to see Abel and Thomas grow up into the world of violence that Jax has grown up in.


Hamlet, is as I said earlier, Jax. The ghost of his father haunts him in the form of an old manuscript memoir in Sons of Anarchy. John Teller sets his son on a quest to find his murderer and to make right all that went wrong with Motorcycle Club. Unlike Hamlet, Jax had enough time after killing his step-father to become the head of the Club.  He rules for time, but that time is quickly running out. Kurt Sutter has indicated that like the tragedy he patterned his show after, there is no happy ending.  Everyone will most likely be dead by the end.


Hamlet has three friends in the play: Hortio, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  In Sons of Anarchy the closest parallel to Hortio would be Opie.  Opie dies as Hortio dies, but Opie dies earlier in this drama. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern may be combined into the prospect known as Half Sack. Certainly there a lot of casualties in the wars that The Sons of Anarchy have fought both for their enemies and their own.  And the body count does nothing but continue to rise season after season.

That leads me season seven and Laertes and Polonius. Who would be the parallels of Laertes and Polonius in The Sons of Anarchy? Piney, though not Tara’s father he is the closest character to Polonius. Laertes is the one who kills Hamlet, so my question is who is going to kill Jax in s Season seven. You know it is coming. Just as you know Gemma will most likely die before the end of the series. Does she die by Jax’s hand or someone else’s is the only question.



About carilynn27

Reading and writing and writing about reading are my passion. I've been keeping a journal since I was 14. I also write fiction and poetry. I published my first collection of short stories, "Radiant Darkness" in 2000. I followed that up with my first collection of poetry in 2001 called "Journey without a Map." In 2008, I published "Persephone's Echo" another collection of poetry. Since then I've also published Emotional Espionage, The Way The Story Ended, My Perfect Drug and Out There. I have my BA in English from The Ohio State University at Mansfield and my MA in English Lit from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I also have my Post BA Certificate in Women's Studies. I am the mother of two beautiful children. :-)
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