Shakespeare’s Usage of Foils Illustrates Man’s Deceit

Shakespeare’s Usage of Foils Illustrates Man’s Deceit

Length: 1725 words (4.9 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Shakespeare’s Usage of Foils Illustrates Man’s Deceit

1. William Shakespeare, the most popular playwright of all time, experiments with comedy, mystery, betrayal, romance, and tragedy in his play, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. The author uses a variety of characters from different social backgrounds to give us an elaborate picture of deception. From the opening line of "Who’s there?" the reader gets the impression that people are not what they seem in this play. The interrelationships between the royalty and people of the court are well-developed to illustrate the major and minor similarities and differences between the characters. Shakespeare reveals the deceptive nature of man and the ruin it causes through his use of foils. [Many of the other essays did not follow the directions and used the definition of foils as the introduction. This writer understood that the essay was to be about the use of foils in the play. The introduction, therefore, is about the play, and it leads up to a thesis which briefly states the function (meaning) of the foils within the play. The thesis, in other words, does not simply state that the essay will discuss foils in the play, but rather that the essay will show how the foils help reveal the deceptive nature of man and the resulting ruin. This is, I believe, also the only writer who alludes to "Who's there?" and thereby nicely connects the essay -- and thus the foils -- to much of what I emphasized in class discussions of the play.]

2. Foils are integral to this play, because many of the devious plots are revealed to the reader through them. A foil is a secondary character which [*1] illuminates certain things about a primary character to the audience. The major character may reveal secrets, such as murderous plots or traps, or feelings, for example, a perspective on death or the love of another character. This can happen if the minor character is primarily a listener on stage. Another scenario is if two characters, major and minor, share similarities, but have distinct differences. These variations in personality will reveal something important about the main character. The "something important" could be a fatal flaw or a good point of their personality. Many foils are used in this play, but there are two important ones which happen to be for the same character.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Shakespeare’s Usage of Foils Illustrates Man’s Deceit." 24 Feb 2020

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Analysis Of William Shakespeare 's Othello Essay

- There are many reasons why we study William Shakespeare’s plays today. There is the insight into human nature that he knows well, allusions to old mythology and legends, and others. However, one reason stands out above the rest: his power of language. Also, this power of language is clearly shown in his play, Othello, through Iago, the antagonist of the play. Iago, who is an ensign of Othello, is furious that he was not given the promotion of lieutenancy. As a result, he uses his craftiness and his “power of language” to take revenge on Othello....   [tags: Othello, Iago, Jealousy, Michael Cassio]

Research Papers
828 words (2.4 pages)

Essay about Purpose of the Different Foils in Shakespeare's Hamlet

- In Hamlet, Shakespeare uses foils to enhance the characters namely to enhance Hamlet. A foil is a minor character who with their similarities and differences reveals character traits, that of another character opposite to them. The character may also be put in place by the author to give the main character a person to talk to, through this conversation useful information can be received about either the main character or the plot in general. This can be shown through Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, also the Ghost of King Hamlet, Ophelia, and Laertes....   [tags: Hamlet, Shakespeare]

Research Papers
719 words (2.1 pages)

Essay on Use of Foils to Illustrate Deceit in Shakespeare's Hamlet

- Use of Foils to Illustrate Deceit in Hamlet       In his play, Hamlet, William Shakespeare uses a variety of characters from different social backgrounds to paint an elaborate picture of deception. From the opening line of "Who's there?" the reader gets the impression that people are not what they seem in this play. The interrelationships between the royalty and people of the court are developed to illustrate the similarities and differences between the characters. Shakespeare skillfully reveals the deceptive nature of man and the ruin it causes through his use of foils....   [tags: GCSE English Literature Coursework]

Free Essays
1394 words (4 pages)

Essay on The Foils Of Hamlet By William Shakespeare

- 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, Characters in Hamlet, Ghost]

Research Papers
889 words (2.5 pages)

Horatio and Laertes as Foils in Hamlet Essay

- 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]

Research Papers
1116 words (3.2 pages)

The Foils of Hamlet in Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

- The Foils of Hamlet       Many playwrights utilize foils to assist the audience in understanding the meaning of a play or the motivations of the characters .  Foils are minor characters that have similarities or differences with a major character.  Sometime the minor character is in the play so the major character has someone to speak with.  The similarities between the foil and the major may include gender, same social class, or may be in the same situation.  The differences between the two may be an important aspect in their character.  The foils in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet are the Ghost, Laertes, and Ophelia.       The Ghost of Hamlet's father is a foil for Hamlet.  The ghost is in...   [tags: Free GCSE Coursework]

Free Essays
1020 words (2.9 pages)

The Foils in Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

- Foils in Hamlet A foil is a minor charater in a literary work that compliments the main character through similarities and differences in personality and plot. Among all the foils in Shakespear[e]'s "Hamlet," [Titles] Laertes has the biggest impact on Hamlet's character. While Hamlet maintained his status as prince, it was Laertes that represented the well bred son of the royal family and the traditional revenge hero. [The thesis does not cover the essay.] Some similarities in Laertes and Hamlet were that they were both students....   [tags: GCSE English Literature Coursework]

Free Essays
699 words (2 pages)

Foils in Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

- Foils in Hamlet Hamlet by William Shakespeare is a well known play. Shakespeare uses foils in Hamlet to further create and explain Hamlet’s character. Foils are created in a play to help the audience better understand a major character by giving the character someone to talk to and compare the major character to. [Using the definition as the thesis was not a good idea in this paper. The assignment said not in the first paragraph, i.e., the paper was to be about how foils affect the meaning of this play.] Foils are minor characters created in a play to help the audience understand a major character better by giving the major character someone to talk to and compare...   [tags: The Tragedy of Hamlet]

Free Essays
1238 words (3.5 pages)

Foils In Hamlet Essay

- Night and Day Many authors use foils to better illustrate the nature of the character. Foils are characters who compliment yet contrast the main character. With the use of foils the reader can get a better understanding of the main character through the dialogue of the foils. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, we find Prince Hamlet foiled by many characters. Each foil revealing something different about Hamlet. One such foil in this play is undoubtedly Laertes, the son of Polonius. There are a few ways that Laertes mirrors Hamlets character, the revenge they both seek , the anger they both have, and they both mourn Ophelia’s death....   [tags: essays research papers]

Research Papers
773 words (2.2 pages)

Foils Essay

- Foils 1 When sitting down and reading Hamlet by William Shakespeare, it made me think back to when I read the play in high school. I tried to remember as much as I could. By reading the play earlier in high school, it made me understand the play a lot more. When asked to go through the play and explain the foils of Hamlet, I find it kind of hard to come up with the foils. When coming up with foils, I guess the first foil I can come up with is Hamlet and the King. Looking at another one, I guess it would have to be the Queen and Ophelia....   [tags: Essays Papers]

Free Essays
981 words (2.8 pages)

Related Searches

[This is the best definition of foils in the entire set of papers. It uses the basic concepts that my definition included, but it develops them through its own examples.]

3. Laertes is a foil for Hamlet and their deceptions are quite painful to all involved. Laertes and Hamlet are approximately the same age and the same sex. [*2] They also both live abroad, France and Germany, respectively. Laertes and Hamlet both deeply love in different ways a maiden named Ophelia. Ophelia is Laertes’ sister and receives advice from him about Hamlet. Hamlet proclaims his love and lust for Ophelia many times throughout the play. [Where in the play does he proclaim his lust for her?] For example, on page 659, [Citation] Polonius reads to the king and queen a love letter from Hamlet which states, "Doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love." [This says "love," not "lust"; shame on you.] Laertes tells Ophelia that Hamlet does not love her, that she is just a passing fancy to the prince. Hamlet and Laertes both have meddling parents. Polonius, Laertes’ father, sends his servant, Reynaldo, to spy on his son. Besides spying, Reynaldo is to spread rumors to obtain truths about Laertes. Hamlet’s parents, Queen Gertrude and King Claudius, have servants spy on him, trick him to determine [the] cause of supposed madness, and badger him in his time of mourning. Instead of just asking Hamlet, they use Ophelia as bait to see if he really loves her.

4. But the major similarity between these two is their own deceptiveness. Hamlet pretends to be mad and acts despicably towards Ophelia. He also sets up a fake play to see the king’s reaction instead of confronting him as soon as he knew the truth. Hamlet also writes letters under the king’s name to put to death two soldiers, Rosencrantz and Guildernstern. Laertes[,] when learning that Hamlet was the murderer of his father[,] agrees to trick Hamlet into a duel. Laertes and King Claudius sabotage the sword by removing the button which would prevent the sword from cutting through the skin and by poisoning the tip. Laertes also knew about the poisoned wine Hamlet was to drink. Hamlet's deceit caused Ophelia's death and complications in his plan of revenge. Laertes’ deceptive tricks killed Hamlet, the queen, and himself. [This is an excellently detailed paragraph.]

5. Laertes and Hamlet have differences as well as similarities. Laertes is the king's servant's son, whereas Hamlet is the next in succession to be king. A major differing aspect is their treatment of the new king. Laertes obeys and collaborates with King Claudius. Hamlet disdains and ridicules the king on behalf of his wronged mother and murdered father. Also Laertes immediately called for blood when learning of his father's murder, yet after Hamlet talks to the ghost of his dead father, he delays revenge. Even though given many opportunities, [no ,] to slay Claudius, Hamlet refrains. Yet when Laertes sees Hamlet, the murderer of Polonius, he starts a brawl at his sister's funeral. Hamlet's obsession with tricking Claudius results in the unnecessary deaths of Polonius and Ophelia. Laertes’ deceit causes the Queen and Hamlet to die, as well as himself. [The last part of this paragraph repeats the preceding paragraph.]

6. As a listener on stage, Laertes learns of other's deceptions and consents to his own. Polonius gives words of wisdom to his son, even though he does not follow his own advice. The hypocrisy of Polonius is quite evident in this speech, which includes the ever popular line, ". . . to thine own self be true." Laertes also is taken into the king's confidence and agrees to plot against Hamlet. He is crucial to the plan because the final tragedy illustrates how the deviant nature of man causes destruction to people's lives. [*3]

7. Hamlet, being the main character in this play, has more than one foil to illustrate the devious nature of man. Horatio is the only character who knows of the plots and traps and does not interfere. He knows of the lies and secrets of Denmark, yet remains in the background to let, [No ,] "Heaven direct it." He is the same age and sex as Hamlet, and they both attend the same university in Germany. Horatio is the only one that Hamlet trusts. This is very important to Horatio’s role as a listener. [Nice. I don't think anyone else mentioned this.] Hamlet tells Horatio of the ghost's secret, his own devious act of pretending to be mad, the plot of the king to have Hamlet killed, and Hamlet's retaliation against the king. Hamlet's confiding to Horatio lets the audience hear the secrets of the court.

8. Hamlet uses his intelligence to deceive every person in Elsinore, except Horatio. Horatio acts as the straight and narrow of the palace. He is the only character the audience trusts and his loyalty is quite evident. In the final scene, Hamlet is dying and Horatio attempts to take his own life, but Hamlet stops him. Horatio is the noble and non-devious character who is spared, so he may tell the story. He, the only one who did not enter into devious plans, survives because he is good. Horatio is ever-important as a listener on stage. As Hamlet's best friend, he tells him of the ghost. Hamlet makes him swear to not divulge the details of his father's death. Through Hamlet and Horatio’s conversations, the audience learns of the assassination attempt on Hamlet and how he eludes his captors. The audience also learns of Hamlet's death order on Rosencrantz and Guildernstern. Horatio is with whom Hamlet ponders death while they are in the graveyard. Their conversation reveals Hamlet's sensitive side. Horatio also witnesses the final scene and will tell the people of Denmark the deception and murder which occurred in Elsinore. [Paragraphs 7 and 8 are somewhat repetitive and could have been better organized.]

9. Shakespeare is an expert at manipulating language to allow readers to observe the different sides of man. In Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, the deception and betrayal between characters is made very clear. Foils in plays are an adept way to show variations of personality. Horatio, Laertes, and Hamlet are adequate [?] examples of different personalities. Shakespeare used Horatio and Laertes to reveal plots of the play and the devious ways of the other characters. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is a play that can be used to examine the effects of deceit. Man's tendency towards deceiving others is a flaw which causes emotional and[,] in this play[,] physical pain. This play reflects the destruction of innocent lives because of the lack of honesty.

Instructor's Notes
1. Normally, "which" and "that" are best used to refer to a thing; "who" is used to refer to a person. [Click here.] In this case, a character is not a real person, but it does represent a person. I would probably have used "that."

2. "Laertes and Hamlet are approximately the same age and the same sex. " Many readers will carry the "approximately" here over the "and" and thus apply it to "same sex." Then they will start to wonder about how people can be "approximately the same sex." For many people, this is an interesting question which they may ponder for some time. As that time goes by, however, their eyes will continue to read words. Hence they may miss what the writer says in the next few sentences. The problem can be avoided by changing the sequence: "Laertes and Hamlet are the same sex and approximately the same age."

3. Paragraph six, on Laertes as listener, is weak, but I blame the assignment, particularly the grading sheets for the weakness. The detailed grading sheets are intended to help weaker students develop their essays, but, as I have said in class, they get in the way of stronger students. In this paragraph this writer was attempting to get the three points under details designated for the first foil as a listener. (See below.)
Return to