Characters And Foils In Hamlet By William Shakespeare

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Foils in literature are characters who are used as parallels and contrasts with another character in order to highlight particular qualities of the other character. In the play “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare, while almost every character is a foil to Hamlet, one especially stands among the crowd- Laertes. Hamlet and Laertes are placed in very similar situations throughout the course of the play. Hamlet’s father was murdered and felt duty-bound to seek revenge the same way Laertes’s father was murdered and he felt duty-bound to seek revenge. However, in the case of reactions, Laertes took immediate action while Hamlet was slow to act. In terms of character, they share many similarities and differences. Both can be quite impulsive but while …show more content…
As its demonstrated in the play, both are college-educated and have the ability to use logical and rational reasoning. However, they differ in their applications of it. We can see in the play Laertes’ single-minded and furious drive. As stated above, he accused Claudius at first of murdering his father without checking if it was true. He let his emotions and passions take a hold of him when storming the castle. It’s only after he storms the castle with his mob that he starts asking questions like “How came he dead?”(4.5.104). This contrasts with Hamlet who is not as single-minded as Laertes and is quite smart in comparison. Yet it’s his intelligence and tendency to overthink that is his flaw. Being a thinker, he worries about right and wrong and their long-term effects. For instance, Hamlet started having thoughts that the Ghost he spoke to earlier in the play might have been a demon and hence, what the Ghost said to him was all a lie. As a result, when a group of actors enter the scene, he instructs them to perform a murder scene and asks Horatio to “observe (his) uncle”(3.2.75) to see if his uncle reacts and if he doesn’t he would assume it was a lie. Another example of his pondering and worrying can be seen when he had the chance to kill Claudius while he was praying but diverted his passion for fear of sending Claudius “to heaven”(3.3.75). …show more content…
Laertes exhibits specific qualities that through comparing and contrasting illuminates Hamlet’s character and gives the reader more light into his nature. When both their fathers had died, we see what they each did about it. The moment Laertes learned of his father’s death, we see how he reacts immediately and is filled with furious devotion to avenging the death of his father. By contrast, even after months of learning about his father’s murder, Hamlet seems to be slow-moving in his progressive action towards revenge. In character, to a certain extent. both can be rash and impetuous and as a result problems to themselves. Yet while Laertes is single-minded and quick in action Hamlet, acting as a sort of philosopher, thinks things through, considers what’s right and wrong, and is not so quick in action. Finally, both men share their similarity of love for Ophelia but differ in their type of love. As a result , in this aspect, we get to understand more of their unique characters as Laertes has a kinship love towards Ophelia while in Hamlet’s case it’s more of passion. In essence, Laertes serves as a great example as a foil to Hamlet. It’s plausible that Shakespeare purposely had Laertes be Hamlet’s foil when Hamlet says to Laertes “I’ll be your foil” (5.2.242)(double-meaning). Furthermore, foils, as Shakespeare uses in Hamlet, greatly enrich literature and gives the reader a greater

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