"What a piece of work is a man!" (II, 2, 305). In his statement Prince Hamlet, in his role as the star character in William Shakespeare's Hamlet, acknowledges the complexity of man; as "infinite in faculties. . . express and admirable. . . like an angel [or] like a god. . . and yet. . . [a] quintessence of dust" (II, 2, 307) is man described. Shakespeare emphasizes the observation by casting Hamlet as "a man," exposing his strengths and weaknesses through the contrast provided by Fortinbras, Laertes and Horatio, as foils to the tragic hero.
At his first appearance, young Fortinbras is shown to be inferior to Hamlet; being "of unimproved metal, hot and full" (I, 1, 96) unreasonably "[sharking] up a list of landless resolutes" (I, 1, 98), he is in sharp contrast to the "sweet and commendable" (I, 2, 87) Hamlet introduced in the next scene. As the play develops, however, Hamlet's weakness are highlighted as Fortinbras works to earn his name, "which seems to symbolize the strong arm of the soldier" (xxvii).
Fortinbras' uncomplicated, simple-minded determination towards final revenge of this father's death contrasts with Hamlet's intermittent efforts towards the same goal. The Norwegian's first appearance in the play, which does not occur until act IV, scene 4, is conveniently placed as Hamlet is on another of his "lows." Fortinbras' triumphant and majestic entry into Denmark evidences his ability to plan and act, circumventing obstacles in his plan as they arise, which contrasts with Hamlet's inability to do the same. Hamlet condemns himself and exposes one of his weaknesses -- his inability to act when required or possible -- by questioning "Wh...
... middle of paper ...
... the deadly duel in the final scene. The scholar's strong code of honour and ethics, which pushes him to commit suicide at Hamlet's death, contrasts with Hamlet's lack of morals, sending his old acquaintances Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths in England and mercilessly "wringing [his mother's] heart" (III, 4, 35) during the closet scene.
By exposing and emphasizing Hamlet's many strengths and weaknesses as they appear throughout the play, Fortinbras, Laertes and Horatio act as foils to the tragic hero. Although they assist in the understanding of Hamlet, they do not completely dissect the inner workings of the main character, thus testifying to the complexity of an individual. Indeed, what a piece of work is a man!
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Betty Bealy. Toronto: Canadian School Book Exchange, 1996.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- The Foils of Laertes and Fortinbras in Hamlet William Shakespeare wrote the classic play, Hamlet in the sixteenth century. Hamlet would be a very difficult play to understand without the masterful use of foils. A foil is a minor character in a literary work that compliments the main character through similarities and differences in personality. The audience can identify similarities and differences between any of the characters and Hamlet, however, there are two characters that share so much in common with Hamlet that they have to be considered the most important foils in the play. These two characters are Laertes and Fortinbras. It is the great similarities between Laertes,... [tags: Essays on Shakespeare Hamlet]
1035 words (3 pages)
- There are many topics deeply hidden in the works of William Shakespeare. One of his greatest pieces of works is the story of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Not only are the words of Shakespeare meaningful, but there are also many follow up pieces of literature that contain important interpretations of the events in this play. These works about Hamlet are extremely beneficial to the reader. I have found four of these works and will use them as sources throughout this essay. The first source is “The Case of Hamlet’s Conscience,” by Catherine Belsey, and it focuses on the topic of Hamlet’s revenge in the play.... [tags: foils to hamlet, hamlet´s conscience]
2200 words (6.3 pages)
- 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.... [tags: The Tragedy of Hamlet]
1168 words (3.3 pages)
- In William Shakespeare’s tragic play Hamlet, Prince Hamlet conspires to avenge his father’s murder. Throughout the play, Hamlet spirals through bouts of insanity, depression, and hostility. However, across his tragic tale, Hamlet’s old friend Horatio remains a constant. A scholar and a loyal friend to Hamlet, Horatio acts as one of Hamlet’s many character foils, meaning his characteristics contrast to Hamlet highlighting certain personality traits and allowing the reader to understand Hamlet. Horatio’s minor role is vital to the story of Hamlet.... [tags: hamlet, shakespeare]
1076 words (3.1 pages)
- Horatio and Laertes as Foils in Hamlet Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare is a play about a man's revenge for his father's murder and all the tragedy that comes along with it. The play takes us through the emotions and doubts Prince Hamlet finds within himself after speaking with the presumed ghost of his father, the former King of Denmark. Through Hamlet we meet Horatio, a friend of Hamlet's and a fellow student. When reading [ref] the conversations between Hamlet and Horatio, it becomes clear how Hamlet feels about his father's murder and his plans to avenge this murder.... [tags: GCSE Coursework Shakespeare Hamlet]
1116 words (3.2 pages)
- 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.... [tags: The Tragedy of Hamlet]
1639 words (4.7 pages)
- Laertes, Claudius, and Fortinbras as Foils of Hamlet In Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, the young Prince Hamlet must deal with murder, corruption and incest. The foils to Prince Hamlet, give the reader a basis to summarize his character within the play. Such foils include Laertes, son of Polonius, Claudius, current king of Denmark and stepfather of Hamlet, and Fortinbras, the prince of Norway. The first foil or character that sets off Hamlet, in the play is Laertes. After King Hamlet's death, he, along with Prince Hamlet, return to Denmark for the funeral services.... [tags: Free Shakespeare Essays]
807 words (2.3 pages)
- The Foils of Hamlet Hamlet is dominated by an emotion which is inexpressible, because it is in excess of the facts as they appear.... We should have to understand things which Shakespeare did not understand himself." T.S. Eliot (Hamlet and His Problems) In the play Hamlet [Titles] by William Shakespeare the cast of main characters use the support given to them by the foils to enhance the play. A foil is a minor character who by simulations [?] and differences reveals character, and who, as an element of plot, is there for the more important character to talk to (vevra [sic] ).... [tags: Hamlet]
881 words (2.5 pages)
- Foils in Hamlet A foil is a minor character that helps the audience better understand a major character. A foil may exist as a comparison character, with similarities between the two, as well as differences that bring to light an important contrast between the foil and the main character. A foil may also just be someone for the main character to talk to, so we can know and understand their thoughts and feelings. Foils help us understand the obvious as well as the arcane. In the classic tragedy Hamlet, we see William Shakespeare employ foils to illustrate both examples.... [tags: Free Hamlet Essays]
869 words (2.5 pages)
- Hamlet and Horatio Horatio holds the seat of honor in Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, for being the only character among the dramatis personae who is extremely close to the protagonist. Horatio’s emotional bond with the hero is paradoxically closer than that of Hamlet’s mother to the hero. This essay will examine the character of Horatio, Hamlet’s truest friend. D.G. James’ essay, “The New Doubt,” explains the hero’s passionate admiration of Horatio: But we must remark how Hamlet speaks of Horatio; he does so in words of passionate admiration.... [tags: Essays on Shakespeare Hamlet]
3393 words (9.7 pages)