Use of Foil Characters in Hamlet, by William Shakespeare

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Hamlet by William Shakespeare is a tragedy that makes great use of foil characters. Shakespeare uses the minor characters to help give his main character, Hamlet, more definition and multi-faceted characteristics. Foils are able to do this by contrasting their traits to those of the main character. One major foil in Hamlet is Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle. Claudius responds to situations with a decisive manor, has few morals if any and he is always power-hungry and will do anything to get that power.
Hamlet has a more of an impulsive nature, that he struggles to control through out the play, however Claudius has a more methodical nature. He is very indecisive and sometimes this leads to a hasty decision in which he gives his enemies the advantage. When he encounters the Ghost for the first time, he wants to appear brave in front of Marcellus and Horatio, so he decides to say,
"My fate cries out
And makes each petty artere in this body
As hardy as the Nemean lion's nerve.
Still am I called. Unhand me, gentlemen.
By heaven, I'll make a ghost of him that lets me!
I say, away! Go on. I'll follow thee
(I; iv; 83-86)."

Hall 2
This shows that Hamlet made a rash decision to follow the Ghost. Claudius on the other hand thinks about his decisions, such as his methodical plot to kill old Hamlet while he was alone sleeping, and the idea to use poison to do so, this way it would appear to be a natural death. Hamlet on the other hand has a very hasty and impulsive nature, but he learns to tame it as the book goes on. He starts off being a show off and following the ghost, then he learns about his fathers' murder which "drives him mad" (or so everyone thinks he is for no defined reason), but he does not let these emotions control him completely be...

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...ns hastily without much premeditated thought, while Claudius plots everything out before actually does anything. The morality of an issue worries Hamlet while Claudius has no appreciation for moral law. Finally, Claudius does whatever it takes to get power, while Hamlet does the same type of things, although they are not right he feels bad about them and has moral conflicts unlike Claudius who murders without moral consent. Shakespeare wrote in characters like Claudius to help his audience understand more about the main character. Claudius helps define Hamlet’s position on those issues while other foils deal with other characteristics. Foils are what bring a flat character to a round character, a static character to a dynamic character. It’s the minor characters that are able to make a hero, the hero and a villain, the villain.

Works Cited

Hamlet Shakespeare