Foils in Shakespeare's Hamlet

Foils in Shakespeare's Hamlet

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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 them to. Ophelia can be considered a foil to Hamlet because she helps us see the different attitudes Hamlet has toward certain things. Hamlet, after finding out that his father was murdered, starts acting crazy and giving Ophelia mixed signals about his love for her. Ophelia believes Hamlet loves her but,  because of her father’s wishes, constantly turns him down and denies that she feels the same way. Ophelia finally denounces denies that she loves him but Hamlet states that "I did love you once." He also stated that "You should not have believed me, for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it. I loved you not." "Get thee to a nunnery." These lines from the play states [SV -1] that Hamlet was pretending to be delirious and pretending to love Ophelia because of what Claudius has done to his father.

      Not only does the scene, "Get thee to a nunnery," show how Hamlet feels about Ophelia, but it also shows how Hamlet feels about marriage and women. Hamlet tells Ophelia to go to the convent because she should not want to be a "breeder of sinners" and because there should be no more marriage. Hamlet does not want anymore marriage because that would mean more children and according to Hamlet the only children born to marriage are sinners.

      Ophelia is also considered a foil for Hamlet because of the difference in the way each grieved for their father’s deaths. The difference between the way Hamlet and Ophelia grieved is that Ophelia’s grief was actually for her father, whereas Hamlet’s grief was for his mother.

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Hamlet grieved for his father but he was more upset with the fact that his mother married his uncle only days after his father had died. Ophelia grieved for her father to the point that she killed herself. [There is more involved here. More details would help reveal it.]

      Laertes, Ophelia’s brother, is also considered a foil for Hamlet because they both lost their fathers and also because of the love they both feel for Ophelia. The anger each, Laertes and Hamlet, feels toward the death of their fathers is one of the aspects, which makes Laertes a foil. Hamlet is angry with both his mother and his uncle after his father’s death. Hamlet is angry with his mother for marring [sic] his uncle so soon after his father’s death. Hamlet is angry with his uncle not only for marring [sic] his mother and becoming his father, but also, because he is the one who killed his father. Laertes is also angry with Claudius in the beginning because he thinks Claudius is the one who killed his father, but later finds out that Hamlet is the one who killed Polonius. The difference in the anger felt by Hamlet and the anger felt by Laertes is that Laertes wants to revenge his father’s death, whereas Hamlet thinks he wants to revenge his father’s death. Hamlet thinks he want revenge on Claudius for killing his father but never actually kills Claudius until the Queen drinks the poison from the cup, which was meant for Hamlet, and is killed. Laertes sought revenge for his father’s death as soon as he learned Polonius was dead.

      Laertes is also considered a foil for Hamlet because of their love for Ophelia. Laertes loves Ophelia because she is his sister. Hamlet states that he loves Ophelia but constantly changes his mind as to whether or not he really does love her. Hamlet, in the first two acts of the play, makes Ophelia think that he loves her, but in the third act he tells her that she should have never believed him because he no longer loves her. Toward the end of the play, after Ophelia kills herself, Hamlet tells his mother that he does still love her. The idea that Hamlet keeps changing his statement about whether or not he loves Ophelia is what gives us the difference between Hamlet and Laertes for the affect of a foil.

      The foils, Ophelia and Laertes, in Hamlet give us a better understanding of Hamlet in the play. Ophelia better explains Hamlet because of the way they feel about each other and because of the grief they feel for their fathers. Laertes gives us a better understanding of Hamlet’s character because of the many differences and similarities they both encounter throughout the play such as their love for Opheila and their need for revenge.

 

     [ . The writer has some interesting things to say, but they don't get communicated as well as they could be, primarily because of problems with the thesis and topic sentences. The thesis does not tell us what to be looking for -- other than foils. The writer does tell us that foils are based on similarities and differences, but at times I am confused about whether or not what is being discussed is a similarity, or a difference.  This may seem like a trivial complaint, but it is not. These papers use a complex thought process on complex topics. The though process (basically comparison / contrast) is used in almost every field of study -- and in any profession that involves thinking. Basically, three things are involved in the thought process -- same, different, and conclusions. But in addition to the thought process, there is the complex material -- in this case, the meaning of the foils in Hamlet.

     In this paper, the topic sentence for the second paragraph suggests that the paragraph will be about foils, but it ends up being about Ophelia. The topic sentence for the third paragraph is about a scene in the play -- how does it relate to foils? In the fourth paragraph, the topic sentence is much better -- it indicates that the paragraph will be about a difference between Ophelia and Hamlet. The topic sentence of the fifth implies similarities between Laertes and Hamlet, but the paragraph gets into differences. The same is true of the sixth.

     In part, this problem may be the result of the writer's incomplete grasp of the concept of "foil." A foil is a prop -- a minor character who is in the work to help readers (or viewers) better understand the major character. But if we look at this writer's concluding paragraph, what does the writer suggest that we have learned about Hamlet? The statements about Ophelia tell us about both Hamlet and Ophelia. The statements about Laertes tell us about both Hamlet and Laertes. In still other words, what does Ophelia reflect about Hamlet -- his madness? his obsession with sex and his mother (rather than his father's death)? The same question could be asked about Laertes.

 
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