Foils are the minor characters in a play that aid in developing the more important characters. By using the similarities and differences between two characters, the audience can get a better understanding of that major character. In Hamlet, Shakespeare uses many foils to develop the major characters of his play. Two foils that Shakespeare used to develop Hamlet's character were Laertes and Polonius.
One of the foils important to the play is Laertes. Although Laertes does not appear often in the play, he brings much to the plot and to Hamlet's character. These two are similar in many ways. They both seem to be about the same age, are well educated, and gentleman. One main thing that they have in common is they both are seeking revenge for their father's deaths. Both of their fathers were unnecessarily killed. Hamlet's father was killed by his father's brother for the crown and his wife, and Hamlet killed Laertes' father over mistaken identity. It was the revenge of these two that made up the plot of the story. Because of Laertes, the two could finally fulfill their revenge in the battle at the end that killed both Hamlet and the new king. If Laertes had not challenged Hamlet, the king would have died by some other way; however, the king died by poisoning just as he had killed his brother.
Another similarity in the play is the fact that both Laertes and Hamlet died by the poisoned tip of the same sword. Laertes and Hamlet were the last two to die. This completed the circle of everyone that had been directly involved in the disgraceful scandal had died. [SS] The poison killed the King, Queen, Hamlet, and Laertes, Polonius was killed by Ha...
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...of the foils Shakespeare used to develop Hamlet's character. The one that did the best in accomplishing this task was Laertes, though. Laertes and Hamlet had a common goal, and if it hadn't been for him[,] the story would have taken a totally different route. Polonius was a good foil in that he convinced everyone that Ophelia was the cause of Hamlet's madness. If he hadn't been Ophelia's father, this part of the story may not have been as effective.
Bloom, Harold. Modern Critical Interpretations Of Hamlet. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.
Charney, Maurice. All of Shakespeare. New York, NY. Columbia University Press. 1993.
Magill, Frank N. Masterplots. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1995.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. The Riverside Shakespeare. ED. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Haughton Mifflin Company, 1974.
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