In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, there are multiple times where the protagonist, Hamlet, is portrayed as Laertes, the antagonist. Although, while every character is almost a foil to Hamlet, only a couple stand out over all the other characters. Amongst Laertes, Fortinbras, and Claudius, I’ll be focusing my essay on how Laertes functions as a foil to Hamlet. Laertes is presented with similar catastrophic situations that Hamlet encounters. This is observed when both of them left home, faced the death of their fathers as well as Ophelia’s death. During Act 1, Scene 2, it is acknowledged that Hamlet is returning to England and Laertes asking for consent to France in Act 1, Scene 3. Polonius sends his man, Reynaldo, to Paris to spy on Laertes in Act 2, Scene 1 and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on Hamlet in Act 2, Scene 2 sent by Claudius. Lastly both Laertes and Hamlet face the death of Ophelia in Act 4, Scene 7. Furthermore, knowing the crisis both characters faced they express their emotions in different ways. Hamlet is more thoughtful and strategic whereas Laertes is spontaneous and acts without hesitation.
In Act 1, Scene 2 (112-120 pg. 13) it is known that Hamlet is returning to England. There is no reason specified in the text why Claudius and Gertrude would want Hamlet to stay but it very well maybe due to the fact that both Claudius and Gertrude were in on the murder and wanted to surveil Hamlet since he would be have a tendency for revenge if he found out what really happened to his father Old Hamlet. It was also noticed how Claudius and Gertrude talked towards Hamlet; a nice, aiding and comforting tone so Hamlet would not suspect their wrongdoing. “…For your intent In going back to school in Wittenberg, It is most retrograde...
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...omes, only I’ll be revenged Most thoroughly for my father.” Act 4, Scene 5 (105-110 pg.7). He later finds out it was Hamlet who killed Polonius. Through these points we can see how Laertes is a foil to Hamlet, because he acts without knowing reasons. Hamlet on the other hand talked to the ghost of Old Hamlet where it was revealed that the ghost requested Hamlet to avenge his murder committed by Claudius. “Ghost: Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder”. “Ghost: Everyone was told that a poisonous snake bit me when I was sleeping in the orchard. But in fact, that’s a lie that’s fooled everyone in Denmark. You should know, my noble son, the real snake that stung your father is now wearing his crown.” Act 1, Scene 5 (25, 34-40 pg.7). Knowing this Hamlet took his time and orchestrated a plan to kill Claudius compared to Laertes who likes to take revenge when needed.
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