Shakespeare in Space: Futurama’s Connection to the Bard

In the 1999 cartoon situational comedy Futurama, there is a character named Bender Bending
Rodriguez. He is a robot, designed specially for bending girders. Bender shares a number of characteristics in common with another famous character: Hamlet. Through Futurama’s seven season run, Bender behaves in the same passionate, morose, and obsessive manner as Hamlet time and time again.

In season 1 episode 1 of Futurama, our first introduction to Bender is in line for a suicide booth,
he having lost the will to live. Bender’s obsession with death continues throughout the series, similarly to Hamlet. In act 1 scene 2 of Hamlet, Hamlet laments the death of his father:

Oh, that this too, too sallied flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His cannon ‘gainst the self-slaughter. O God, God,
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!

His words smack of thoughts of suicide, showing his mental anguish, just as Bender shows in his own lament after discovering his work as a bender was used in creating suicide booths. His existence is inseparable death, linked to his work and his actions.

There are also links in the capriciousness of both characters. Where Hamlet desires action with
his exclamation of “Oh, from this time forth / My thoughts be bloody or nothing worth!” in act 4 scene
1, Bender dreams of a world where humans are no longer ruling over machines, and exclaims in his
sleep, “kill all humans!” While perhaps these two sentiments are not perfectly aligned, the similarity of a
desire to act for their own self interest is apparent. Both characters want to see their own will enacted on their worlds, as a means to grant freedom from their own personal suffering at the hands of others who claim rule over them.

The references to Shakespeare’s works in the Futurama do not end with Bender. In nearly every
season and film of the series you will find at least one reference to the Bard. With season 1 episode 4 being titled “Love’s Labor Lost in Space,” a reference to Love’s Labor Lost, and season 3 episode 4 being titled “Roswell that Ends Well,” referencing All’s Well that Ends Well, it becomes a clear pattern showing a link to Shakespeare’s works, bringing it to the forefront of this piece of popular culture.

Bender, however, remains a titular reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet with surprising frequency. Bender dies in the series dozens of times, either in alternate realities, or to be resurrected later, yet each time he meets his demise, invariably his best friend Phillip J. Fry, or others, will close his eyes, and say, “goodnight, sweet prince.” This is perhaps one of the most famous lines of Hamlet,
spoken by Horatio at the death of Hamlet by the poisoned blade which strikes him during his duel with

In a show where references to other popular media is a frequent gag meant to bring about a good laugh, it is not a surprise to find references to English’s most accomplished and famous writer, William Shakespeare. It is clear, though, that the Bard and the Bender have a link between them to the play of Hamlet. So whether you are a prince or not, if you are wanting a good piece of popular culture to view rich with references to Shakespeare, Futurama is not one to sleep on.

Published by AC Moore

My goal is to one day change the world in the same way Shakespeare did: by infusing the thoughts of the human race with such language and turn-of-phrase that they say them daily, and never even know it was I who wrote it.

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