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Foils in Hamlet

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Essay title: Foils in Hamlet

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. Just as a foil can mirror a character, it can contrast it. Laertes seeks instant almost thoughtless revenge whereas Hamlet is a bit more cautious and needs further evidence. Both Hamlet and Laertes have a different relationship with Claudius, one is deceived by him and the other sees right through his deception. Both return to Denmark after the passing of King Hamlet, which is the first indication that Laertes will act as a major foil to Hamlet.

The tie they share with Claudius is a perfect example of the contrasting ways of Hamlet and Laertes. Claudius is in one way or another responsible for every death in this play. With the death of King Hamlet and the accidental murder of Polonius, we find both Hamlet and Laertes seeking revenge. Hamlet is told by the Ghost that Claudius is responsible for King Hamlets death. Almost as if it were his noble duty, he plots to avenge his fathers death by murdering Claudius. Once word gets to Laertes that Hamlet killed Polonius, he also wants to avenge his Fathers death.

Here is where the similarity ends, both want to accomplish the same goal but the way they approach and react after their fathers death are very antithetical to each other. The actions taken by both men concerning the avenging of their fathers death are opposite to one another. Hamlet is the more cautious of the two and sits back and waits for further evidence before springing to action. Hamlet strategically plots his revenge, waiting for the opportune moment and until he is convinced his uncle is to blame for his fathers death. In contrast, Laertes seeks immediate revenge of his fathers death and he is used like a pawn by the conniving Claudius to kill Hamlet. Laertes acts on impulse and is driven by anger, which ultimately leads to both his and Hamlets demise.

Expanding more on the role of Claudius, we can take a look at the way each of them perceive Claudius and his deceitful nature. From the start, Hamlet is on to his trickery by warning of the ghost. Hamlets own mother married his fathers murderer, this course of action brings further skepticism

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