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Foils Found In Ancient Tales Essay

1211 words - 5 pages

In almost every tale one reads it is evident that there is a good character and a bad character, a protagonist and an antagonist, a hero and his villain. In every tale one can see a character with outstanding characteristics and one with not so good intentions. In the tales of Beowulf, the Pardoner’s Tale and Hamlet one can see characters like these. Each of these tales has characters that foils to each other. In literature, a foil is said to be a character that contrasts another character in order to highlight particular qualities of that other character. In the tale of Beowulf, Unferth is a foil to Beowulf, in the Pardoner’s Tale, the old man is a foil to the three rioters and in ...view middle of the document...

” (Beowulf 121) It seen that Unferth is jealous and afraid because he was unable to protect Heorot and defeat Grendel. Even though Unferth is the negative counterpart of every Beowulf is, they seem to get along. This set of foils is typically important to this tale because Unferth’s actions and how he challenges Beowulf’s heroicness just helps in boasting about Beowulf’s accomplishments. Unferth’s actions are not set on destroying Beowulf’s chances of defeating Grendel but on the contrary he actually helps Beowulf by handing him his sward in the battle between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother. Unferth’s actions are just expressing his opinion that he believes no one will be able to destroy Grendel. Unferth’s belittling of Beowulf gives Beowulf the opportunity to prove that he is capable of defeating Grendel. This set of foils role is to highlight the true qualities of a hero or warrior. Unferth is never seen as a hero as the story progresses but instead just helps on continuing to show how great Beowulf truly is.
In the Pardoner’s Tale, the old man can be seen as the foil of the 3 rioters. The old man and the 3 rioters have completely different characteristics. The old man is nice and smart but the rioters are mean and naive. When the old man first meets the rioter, they tell him that they are looking for death because it killed a friend of theirs. Not knowing that the old man was death himself, the rioters are then told that death was ahead of them. Sending them toward this direction the old man was leading them to the gold which ultimately lead them to death, their own deaths. The old man is seen as the foil of the rioters because he not only is the complete opposite of what the rioters are but he also highlights all the negative qualities the rioters had. This set of foils is important to the tale because it shows that in the end man is the cause of his own death because it is controlled by greed and all their bad desires. The role of the old man was to help the reader understand that death is at times not the one at fault or the “bad guy” per say but that man causes his own death. The role of the rioters was to show the true nature of man and how lying, evil and deceitful man can really be.
In the tale of Hamlet, the reader can see that Fortinbras is a foil...

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