Foils as Reflections of Hamlet

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Foils are minor characters, that through similarities and differences, set off or accent the main characters of a play. There is a strong connection between the foils in a play and one's final perception of the main characters. In William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, there is a continuous shifting of the main character's emotions. These emotions range anywhere from madness and rage to grief and sorrow. In Hamlet there is a foil that represents each emotion and behavior that is displayed by the main character- Hamlet.

Laertes holds the most important role as a foil to Hamlet. He represents the rage that boils within Hamlet and the revenge which he seeks. In many ways Laertes mirrors Hamlet's character. Their anger is precipitated through the same source, the untimely death of their fathers. Other similarities between the two men include the love that they both felt for Ophelia, and the heartfelt sorrow which they displayed upon her tragic death. The differences between Hamlet and Laertes become obvious as the two characters are played off of each other. Both men are the dutiful sons of their father's. However Leartes is portrayed as the well-breed son, while Hamlet's character is played down to that of a more peculiar type commoner who possesses few royal qualities. Although both men are students, Leartes prefers to indulges in a Parisian type lifestyle, whereas Hamlet chooses to study in the more subdued atmosphere of Whittenburg. There is also a difference in the way that both men react to the death of their fathers. Upon learning of his father's death, Laertes immediately allows his grievances to be known and chooses to go strait to the arena for his revenge. Hamlet chooses a more peculiar approach...

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...ay that bring Hamlet's character to life while adding mystique, emotion, action and intensity to the story.

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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