Laertes and Horatio as Foils for Shakespeare's Hamlet

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Laertes and Horatio as Foils for Hamlet

In the play, Hamlet , Shakespeare uses a cast of characters that have many roles. Of this cast, Shakespeare uses two characters, Laertes and Horatio, as foils for Hamlet’s character. Through similarities and differences these characters, accentuate Hamlet’s pretense of being crazy, emphasize how Hamlet is an improper son by standards of the time and cause him to be a tragic hero.

A foil is a minor character that helps develop a major character by sharing similarities and differences with the main character. This is a common practice Shakespeare uses within many of his plays. The use of foils in Hamlet, is especially effective in affirming Hamlet’s anguish.

Laertes and Hamlet share two basic similarities. Both Laertes and Hamlet want revenge for their father’s deaths. Hamlet wants revenge against his uncle and Laertes wants revenge against Hamlet. Both want to protect their family name. The revenge Hamlet wants is what starts him pretending he is crazy. He is attempting to use his dementedness as a ploy to get his uncle to confess to the murder. Laertes and Hamlet are both thought to be acting improperly by their parents. Laertes’ father sends two spies to Paris to watch his son and to report back their findings because, " in his worldliness and cynicism, he is absolutely sure that he knows how young men behave when away from parental control." [Source?] This outlook hints at the way Hamlet is behaving without his parental control. Hamlet is presumed mad because he claims to see his dead father[' H-50]s ghost and is obsessing ab...

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...cumstantial causes (reasons) of Hamlet's behavior are shown, then is he not being shown as acting reasonably, and not insanely?]

By using similarities and differences to contrast them to Hamlet, Shakespeare uses the minor characters to help the reader learn or understand Hamlet better. This is why Laertes and Horatio are foils for Hamlet. Both of these minor characters interact with Hamlet throughout the play and they constantly set him off as a tragic hero.

[ Teachers Note: The primary point discussed in relation to Laertes could have been better made using Fortinbras, and the evidence provided in the discussion of Horatio appears to prove just the opposite of what the writer claims. On the other hand, this writer started with a very good thesis and attempted, throughout the entire essay to support that thesis. ]
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