In The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare, Hamlet, the prince of Denmark, is infuriated with his mother, Gertrude, for marrying his uncle, Claudius, less than two months after his father’s death. Hamlet, the main protagonist, has two characters who act as foils to him, and they are Fortinbras and Laertes. Not only do they want revenge on their father’s murderers, but they are willing to do so at all costs, even if it means destroying their reputation and independence. They also find different ways to cope with their troubles. These foils enhance the importance of Hamlet’s character throughout the play.
Even though Fortinbras is rarely mentioned and shown throughout the tragedy, his character, nevertheless, provides an interesting significance to the play. First and foremost, not only are he and Hamlet the rightful heirs to their kingdoms, but they also are seeking for revenge for the deaths of their fathers. Claudius murdered Hamlet’s father, while King Hamlet fought and killed Fortinbras’ father in combat. This provides an interesting parallel between the two. However, Fortinbras is very determined and persistent, and he is willing to do anything to avenge his father’s death. In other words, he immediately seeks vengeance. On the other hand, Hamlet procrastinates and debates whether or not he should confront the situations that he constantly faces. For instance, he questions whether the ghost of his father who hastened him to kill Claudius was the devil, for he says, “The spirit that I have seen / May be the devil” (2.2.531-32). Therefore, Hamlet is skeptical and cautious whether Claudius did, in fact, kill King...
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...g for forgiveness (5.2.292). In the same manner, Hamlet is finally ready to take over as the King of Denmark and defend his father’s honor, for he proclaims, “This is I, / Hamlet the Dane” (5.1.212-13). When Ophelia dies, Hamlet and Laertes both proclaim their love for her with Hamlet crying out, “I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers / Could not with all their quantity of love / Make up my sum” (5.1.227-9). Consequently, Hamlet acts very honorable and valiant.
As one can clearly see, the foils of Hamlet provide an explanation of the complexity of Hamlet’s character. Not only are Laertes and Fortinbras used to advance the story, but they are used so that the audience can understand the true nature of Hamlet. Shakespeare portrays him as a tragic hero. In other words, we are able to comprehend the many different qualities that Hamlet has because of these characters.
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