Horatio and Laertes as Foils in Hamlet
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare is a play about a man's revenge for his father's murder and all the tragedy that comes along with it. The play takes us through the emotions and doubts Prince Hamlet finds within himself after speaking with the presumed ghost of his father, the former King of Denmark. Through Hamlet we meet Horatio, a friend of Hamlet's and a fellow student. When reading [ref] the conversations between Hamlet and Horatio, it becomes clear how Hamlet feels about his father's murder and his plans to avenge this murder. We also meet Laertes, son of Polonius and sister to Ophelia. Through interactions with Laertes we see another side to Hamlet. The similarities and the differences between them both help to show off more of Hamlet's personality and feelings about the revenge. Through both Horatio and Laertes we see not only Hamlet's plan for revenge but also some of his feelings of doubt and confusion between what he thought he wanted and what he was actually capable of.
A foil is a minor character in a play or novel that shows the feelings and thoughts of the major character. This is done not only by the dialog between the two characters but also their similarities and differences. As a foil, Horatio can be seen as a window into what Hamlet feels and does. Horatio is one of the first to see the ghost of King Hamlet and he also informs Hamlet of this sighting. This is something that they have in common because not all of the characters can see the ghost. The queen, for instance, was unable to see it when talking to Hamlet in her bedroom (act III, scene 4(694-695). [Citation] Horatio and Hamlet seem to have a long friendship with one another judging [ref] by the friendly manner in which Hamlet treats him when Horatio first meets Hamlet in act I. They also were students together at Wittenberg. Both Horatio and Hamlet seem to see life and people in the same way. This is apparent when they met Osric and both Hamlet and Horatio made comments on Osric’s mannerism towards Hamlet (act 5, scene 2, p727).
To be a foil there must also be some differences between the two characters, and there are some minor differences in Hamlet and Horatio. These differences help to show Hamlet's character. Horatio seems to be more realistic and more sincere. This is shown when he does not take advantage of his friendship with the Prince and always treated and addressed Hamlet in the proper manner. This ceremonial language is countered by Hamlet's request that Horatio treat him like an ordinary man and call him by no other name except Hamlet. Act I, Scene 3, is the first meeting between Hamlet and Horatio since arriving at the castle. Horatio addresses Hamlet as his lord and calls himself Hamlet's poor...