The Foils in Hamlet Essay
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Foils in Hamlet
A foil is a minor character that helps the audience better understand a major character. A foil may exist as a comparison character, with similarities between the two, as well as differences that bring to light an important contrast between the foil and the main character. A foil may also just be someone for the main character to talk to, so we can know and understand their thoughts and feelings. Foils help us understand the obvious as well as the arcane. In the classic tragedy Hamlet, we see William Shakespeare employ foils to illustrate both examples. They become important literary tools that help the reader rationalize the concurrent theme of the play -…show more content…
In the end, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are naively loyal to Hamlet, and this becomes their downfall. They know that Hamlet has killed Polonius, and yet, they take no precautions as they accompany Hamlet to England. Their trust in both Claudius and Hamlet gets them killed. Hamlet’s reveals his mistrust of his schoolmates in a conversation with his mother, and refers to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as, "...my two-school fellows, whom I will trust as adders fanged..."
Hamlet’s friendship with his third colleague from this group is much different compared to that of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Horatio, also a classmate at Wittenburg, does not appear initially to occupy the same social status as did the former two. He addresses Hamlet and says, "The same, my lord, and your poor servant ever." So Horatio may be from a lower social-economic class. Like Hamlet, he sees a ghost, but is not sure that the ghost was the king, as he admits to only seeing the king once before, another argument for Horatio’s unfamiliarity with the royal family.
Horatio’s most important role as a foil does not become evident until the end of the play. His conversation with Hamlet just before the fatal duel with Laertes provides us with an insight into Hamlet’s state of mind. Horatio advises Hamlet to back down if he does not like the circumstances, and Horatio will attest to Hamlet’s
Laertes, a young Danish lord, is the son of Polonius and brother of Ophelia. He spends most of his time off at college, but, like a lot of college students, he manages to pack a lot of action into the few times he's home.
Foil to Hamlet
After Hamlet kills Polonius, Laertes faces the same problem that Hamlet does —a murdered father. And that's where the similarities end. While Hamlet lollygags and broods over the murder for much of the play, Laertes takes immediate action. He storms home from France as soon as he hears the news, raises a crowd of followers, and invades the palace, saying "That drop of blood that's calm proclaims me bastard." in other words, not being upset by his father's death would prove that his mother was stepping out on his dad.
It's only after he storms the castle with a band of armed men that he starts asking questions —unlike Hamlet, who asks a whole lot of questions before he finally gets around to avenging his father's death. Here's the funny thing, though: both of them end up dead, in exactly the same way, and at each other's hands. So, is Laertes' method really any better than Hamlet's?
Big Brother: A little more than kin?
Laertes obviously loves his dad. And he loves his little sis, too—maybe even a little too much. He makes a huge deal about Ophelia's "unpolluted flesh" at her funeral, just before he screams at the priest to rot in hell and leaps into Ophelia's grave while shouting "Hold off the earth awhile, / Till I have caught her once more in mine arms" (5.1.261-262). This, of course, happens just before Laertes fights with his dead sister's ex-boyfriend about who loved Ophelia the most.
Yep, we're thinking that there's a little "more than kin" at work here. And that's not too surprising, in a play that revolves around a young man who's consumed with his mother's sexuality and marriage to her brother-in-law. And in the end, Laertes' obsession with his family ends up killing him—just as it kills Hamlet. Is Shakespeare advising us all to chill out a little with the tribal allegiances? Or is death just a part of loving your family?Laertes' Timeline