Laertes and Fortinbras as Foils for Shakespeare's Hamlet

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Laertes and Fortinbras as Foils for Hamlet

Hamlet, the major character in the Shakespeare play of the same name, was faced with a decision upon learning that Claudius murdered his father. Should he believe the ghost, and avenge his father's murder? Or is the ghost evil, trying to coerce him into killing Claudius? Throughout the play, we see Hamlet's struggle with this issue. Many opportunities arise for him to kill Claudius, but he is unable to act because he cannot convince himself to believe the Ghost. Shakespeare uses Laertes and Fortinbras as foils to Hamlet, in order to help us understand why Hamlet acts the way he does.

Foils are used in plays so that the readers are better able to understand the major character (Hamlet). In a foil, the minor character is similar in many ways to the main character so that we will compare the two. However, it is through these similarities that we are able to see the more important differences between the two.

The major foil for Hamlet is Laertes, the son of Polonius. The most obvious similarity is that they are both young men. They also come from relatively similar backgrounds, a Danish aristocratic upbringing. They also both have some college education. This leads us to another similarity; [Semicolons vs. colons] they both have the ability to use logical and rational reasoning. However, they do differ on their applications of logical reasoning.

We see this logical and rational reasoning in Hamlet, in Acts 1& 2 when he sets up the "mouse trap" for Claudius, in order to determine if he is guilty of murdering his father. Hamlet's ability to think many moves ahead and predict what the king's reaction will be if he is guilty, shows a type of reasoning beyond a norma...

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...f the papers in this set, you will see that the similarities between Fortinbras and Hamlet are not so obvious-- few writers picked up on them, and none did as good a job at specifying them as did this writer. Here again, this writer backs up the statement with numerous specific examples. Some weak writers who are also weak thinkers will use words such as "obvious" when they have no evidence and may in fact be wrong. In such cases, the use of the word "obvious" is an attempt to cow the reader by implying that if the reader does not see what is supposed to be "obvious" then the reader is stupid. Be careful in using such words, and beware when you find them in your reading. (Another favorite is the phrase "of course.")

Works Cited:

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet. ca. 1600-1601. Ed. Edward Hubler. A Signet Classic. New York: Penguin Publishers,1963.
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