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, Fortinbras, and Hamlet that make the differences so obvious and therefore help to shape the character of Hamlet.
Laertes is the most noticeable foil for Hamlet, because of his continual direct involvement in the play. Laertes and Hamlet have many things in common. Laertes and Hamlet are both educated men with a high social standing. Hamlet is the prince of Denmark and Laertes is the son of Polonius, Lord Chamberlain. Both Hamlet and Laertes desire revenge for the death of their fathers. Claudius murdered Hamlet's father and Hamlet killed Laertes' father. Hamlet and Laertes both had an undying love for Laertes' sister Ophelia. Laertes showed his love for his sister when he warned her about seeing Hamlet. Laertes knew that as head of the state Hamlet would be unable to choose who he married and that Ophelia would be hurt if she fell in love with him. Hamlet had an undying love for Ophelia despite his actions and words toward her in Act III. He shows this at Ophelia's burial when he proclaims that his love for h...
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...one as important as that which he shares with Laertes and Fortinbras. Both Laertes and Fortinbras, although in different ways, provided the admiration and pity needed to make Hamlet the tragic hero he was.
Sources Cited and Consulted:
Bloom, Harold. "Introduction." Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York City: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 1-10.
Findlay, Alison. "Hamlet: A Document in Madness." New Essays on Hamlet. Ed. Mark Thornton Burnett and John Manning. New York: AMS Press, 1994. 189-205.
Goldman, Michael. "Hamlet and Our Problems." Critical Essays on Shakespeare's Hamlet. Ed. David Scott Kaston. New York City: Prentice Hall International. 1995. 43-55
Rose, Mark. "Reforming the Role." Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York City: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 117-128
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