Former Marvel Executive Compares New Disney+ Series to Shakespeare

in Marvel, Television

William Shakespeare superimposed over thumbnails for Marvel shows

Credit: Marvel Studios, edited by ITM

WARNER: SPOILERS FOR MARVEL STUDIOS WHAT IF…? SEASON 2 TO FOLLOW

Marvel Studios had a pretty difficult year, with multiple films underperforming at the box office, star Jonathan Majors very publically losing a dramatic court case, and “comic book movie” fatigue setting in hard. The animated series What If…? season 2 was one of the studio’s few bright spots in 2023, which might be due to show creator and former Marvel executive A.C. Bradley’s insistence on injecting some Shakespearian pathos into it.

Title card for 'What If...?' season 2 with Uatu
Credit: Marvel Studios

In a recent IGN interview with A.C. Bradley (who recently announced her departure from Marvel Studios), the former head writer of Marvel’s most acclaimed Disney+ show described the narrative arc of Strange Supreme (Benedict Cumberbatch) as a tragic, Shakespearian character in the classical sense. Bradley said:

“I was very adamant that we wouldn’t redeem him because he’s made his choices. And he’s a tragic character; the Shakespearean definition of tragedy is that they never learn to make a different choice. They repeat the same mistake over and over again, which is what I wanted for Strange Supreme.”

Related: The Best Marvel ‘What If…?’ Stories That Should Be In Season 3

Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange
Credit: Marvel Studios

The first season of What If…? featured Cumberbatch voicing an alternate version of the Sorcerer Supreme, who gives into grief over the death of Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) and eventually ends up destroying his own universe in a quest for power. Over the course of the season, the Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) eventually teams up with Strange Supreme, but the second season reveals that the latter has (literally) given in to his demons and is once again threatening the fabric of reality, only to be thwarted by Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Kahhori (Devery Jacobs).

Hayley Atwell as Captain Carter in 'What If...?'
Credit: Marvel Studios

Related: First EXTENDED Look for Disney’s TV-MA Daredevil Revealed by Marvel

As Bradley puts it, the notion that Strange Supreme simply cannot change his ways and suffers a downfall because of it is a very Shakespearian one. The writer also revealed that “One of my hobbies is adapting Shakespeare, so part of the impetus for this episode was to see if I could get Tom Hiddleston to do his famous Hamlet soliloquy and he did!”

Loki actor Tom Hiddleston portrayed the title in an acclaimed production of Hamlet in 2017, which was directed by famed Shakespearian Kenneth Branagh…who also directed Hiddleston in his first turn as the God of Mischief in Thor (2011). Who knew there would be so many Shakespeare references in an animated Marvel show?

Which is your favorite episode of What If…? Let’s hear it in the comments below! 

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