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Fortinbras as Foil for Shakespeare's Hamlet

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Fortinbras as Foil for Hamlet

In the play, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, the character of Fortinbras, has been used as a foil for the main character, Hamlet. Hamlet and Fortinbras have lost their fathers to untimely deaths. Claudius killed Hamlet's father, King Hamlet, and King Hamlet killed Fortinbras' father. Both Hamlet and Fortinbras have vowed to seek revenge for the deaths of their fathers. Since the revenge tactics of Hamlet and Fortinbras are completely different, Hamlet perceives the actions of Fortinbras as better than his own and the actions of Fortinbras, then, encourage Hamlet to act without hesitating. 


Hamlet, after learning that his father's death was a murder and vowing to take revenge, wants to be certain that what he has been told is the absolute truth before he attempts to take revenge on Claudius. Even after Hamlet is sure beyond any shadow of a doubt that Claudius is the murderer, he hesitates to kill him. Fortinbras, on the other hand, has been taking action even before the play begins. As the play opens, the audience learns that Denmark is in a state of alert; the country has been preparing for a war. From Horatio, the audience also learns that the young Fortinbras is getting ready his "lawless resolutes"(I.i.111) for action against Denmark for the killing of his father and for the return of lands previously owned by Norway (I. i. 79-107).  These differences between Hamlet and Fortinbras' actions are further mentioned in Hamlet's last soliloquy (IV. iv. 32-66).


Before the soliloquy begins, Hamlet has been informed by one of Fortinbras' Captains that Norway is preparing to fight Poland over a "little patch of land"(IV.iv.19) and that twenty thousand men are eager to fight for th...

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...nts itself. Hamlet is so determined to do something he does not wish to think about the consequences anymore.


Works Cited and Consulted:

Bradley, A.C. "Shakespeare's Tragic Period--Hamlet." Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth. Toronto: MacMillan, 1967.

Danson, Lawrence. "Tragic Alphabet." Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York City: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 65-86

Manning, John. "Symbola and Emblemata in Hamlet." New Essays on Hamlet. Ed. Mark Thornton Burnett and John Manning. New York: AMS Press, 1994. 11-18.

Rose, Mark. "Reforming the Role." Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York City: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 117-128

Wagner, Valeria. "Losing the Name of Action." New Essays on Hamlet. New York: AMS Press, 1994. 135-152.


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