AP English Period 5
26 May, 2015
Hamlet Final Essay
There are many instances in which the protagonist’s key traits are highlighted in the behavior of another character. In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, nearly every character is a foil to Hamlet in some way but three men stand out amongst the crowd. Young Fortinbras, Laertes and Claudius are all faced with problems that are similar to situations that Hamlet faces, and yet the reaction of each man in varies from Hamlet’s own methods of dealing with the same issues.
The character of Young Fortinbras is the foil that is most similar to Hamlet in regards to the circumstance. Hamlet’s father has died, murdered by the hand of his own brother; therefore discarding Hamlet as heir to the throne. Similarly, Young Fortinbras is the prince of Norway and his father is murdered by Hamlet’s father so ...view middle of the document...
These lines show that Hamlet has decided that strong action is better than rational words, and his foil provides him with the ambition to move ahead with his plans.
Another foil that influences Hamlet’s decisions in his quest for revenge is Laertes. Hamlet has mistakenly killed Polonius, Laertes’ father, while mistaking him for someone else without any remorse for his actions. Now, both Hamlet and Laertes are planning to avenge their fathers’ death. However, while Hamlet is full of self-doubt and conflicting emotions, Laertes is quick to attempt to revenge his father. It is not a coincidence that in the final scene of the play, Hamlet says to him, “I’ll be your foil, Laertes. In mine ignorance/ Your skill shall, like a star i’ the darkest night,/ Stick fiery off indeed” (117). Even Hamlet himself realizes how closely aligned his situation is with Laertes and he knows that in the future they will be compared to one another, although Laertes will be found to be greater for his courage in action.
The final foil is the one that is the most unique to Hamlet. His uncle, Claudius, has murdered Hamlet’s father and taken his position as rightful heir. Hamlet finds himself in a similar situation with the accidental murder of Polonius. However, as Claudius revels in his immorality and ability to achieve his goals and his selfishness, Hamlet is plagued by the choices that he must make. This is the only case in the play in which someone acts as a true foil to Hamlet where Claudius’ negative characteristics highlights Hamlet’s rational behavioral struggle.
In conclusion, while Laertes, Claudius and Fortinbras all have something in common with Hamlet, the way in which they react to the situation sets them apart. The addition of these characters makes it easy for the readers to see the areas in which Hamlet is succeeding, and subsequently, failing, on his journey to avenge his father’s death.