The Necessity of Foils in Hamlet

The Necessity of Foils in Hamlet

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The Necessity of Foils in Hamlet        

 Hamlet: Prince of Denmark, by William Shakespeare, can be very difficult to comprehend at first. These complexities of language are what make Hamlet one of the classic dramas. The many characters in the play support the development of Hamlet. Certain traits seen in these lesser characters are sometimes seen in Hamlet, further adding to his identity. Without these characters, more soliloquies and characterization would have to be added in order for Hamlet's character to be developed. By adding these characters, called foils, Shakespeare subtly attributes to Hamlet without deliberately stating them. In the play, the main concepts exhibited by the other characters are revenge and betrayal. This idea is developed through the use of foils and is eventually [?] seen in Hamlet himself.  [No definition of foils?]

 

     The foil that shows revenge and betrayal in Hamlet seems to be Horatio. He is a foil because he is a listener for Hamlet. Horatio is also the only one who seems sympathetic of Hamlet concerning the death of his father and his mother's quick remarriage. Horatio, like Hamlet[,] is a student at Wittenberg. He is loyal to Hamlet, like Hamlet is to his father at first. Horatio, however, never has his social status and rank stated in the play. Horatio, through conversations[,] develops Hamlet's image. The main example of this is the plot to Claudius that Hamlet devises after seeing his father's ghost. Horatio, however, differs from Hamlet because he is less devious. Hamlet, who acts insane to fool the others, is only known to be sane by Horatio.

 

     Revenge and betrayal is also seen in Laertes. Though an enemy, Laertes is a foil to Hamlet. Laertes helps in the development of Hamlet through the similarities they share. These include anger over the death of their fathers, and a desire to exact revenge. Betrayal is also relevant here, because Laertes betrays Claudius in the end, revealing his plan to kill Hamlet. [Nice point] Hamlet betrays his father by verbally abusing his mother, against the wishes of his father. The differences between the two men are very strong. Hamlet would not kill Claudius in the church because he was praying. Laertes, however, stated he would kill Hamlet in a church, praying or not. [Another nice point, but I would like the scene reference.]

 

     Hamlet and Laertes differ in one major aspect.

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Hamlet has the flaw such that he cannot be a man of action and a man of thought at the same time. He does not use his mind when he acts. He just does. When he is pondering something, he is unable to act out his thoughts and keeps quiet. Laertes, however[,] is able to act while thinking. He finds out Hamlet killed his father and immediately devises a plan to kill him. This flaw makes Hamlet dangerous to himself and is his downfall.

 

     The play Hamlet is very complex yet very primitive. It is written for a variety of audiences. The poor class would have tuned in on the sexual banter between Hamlet and Ophelia, as well as the gravedigger scene. The upper class would have picked up on the ideas of foils in the play. They would see how Hamlet is developed through the incorporation of may [sic] sub characters. Without these characters, the play would suffer a great loss and would not be nearly as understandable as it is. Also as said before, Many [sic] more soliloquies would have to be needed to express the thoughts of Hamlet. The play would [have] been more cut up and choppy without the foils. [Cut up and choppy?] Revenge and betrayal, the theme of the play, are seen both in the main characters and Laertes. Also seen is a comparison of how vengeful and disloyal Hamlet is compared to Horatiio. [sic]  Revenge and betrayal is also seen in Polonius, Gertrude, [?] and Claudius. This is why that theme was chosen. Finally, the foils of the play develop Hamlet's character subtly, instead of a description in the Dramatis personae. These elements of drama are what make Hamlet one of the classic works of its time.

 
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