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Laertes And Fortinbras As Foils For Shakespeare's Hamlet

1656 words - 7 pages

Laertes and Fortinbras as Foils for Hamlet         

Hamlet, the major character in the Shakespeare play of the same name, was faced with a decision upon learning that Claudius murdered his father. Should he believe the ghost, and avenge his father's murder? Or is the ghost evil, trying to coerce him into killing Claudius? Throughout the play, we see Hamlet's struggle with this issue. Many opportunities arise for him to kill Claudius, but he is unable to act because he cannot convince himself to believe the Ghost. Shakespeare uses Laertes and Fortinbras as foils to Hamlet, in order to help us understand why Hamlet acts the way he does.

Foils are used in plays so that the readers are better able to understand the major character (Hamlet). In a foil, the minor character is similar in many ways to the main character so that we will compare the two. However, it is through these similarities that we are able to see the more important differences between the two.

The major foil for Hamlet is Laertes, the son of Polonius. The most obvious similarity is that they are both young men. They also come from relatively similar backgrounds, a Danish aristocratic upbringing. They also both have some college education. This leads us to another similarity; [Semicolons vs. colons] they both have the ability to use logical and rational reasoning. However, they do differ on their applications of logical reasoning.

We see this logical and rational reasoning in Hamlet, in Acts 1& 2 when he sets up the "mouse trap" for Claudius, in order to determine if he is guilty of murdering his father. Hamlet's ability to think many moves ahead and predict what the king's reaction will be if he is guilty, shows a type of reasoning beyond a normal person. [Hmmm] In Laertes we see a logical and rational reasoning process when he decides not to kill Claudius, but rather join the king in a plot to kill Hamlet. Laertes is smart enough to listen to the king. However, he could not have known that the king was being deceitful. We can see that both Hamlet and Laertes try to use their wits to solve problems.

There is also another similarity between the two; [Semicolons vs. colons] they both are very concerned about the significant female in their lives. Hamlet is very concerned about his mother's relationship with Claudius, and he obsesses over it. For example in the closet scene in Act 3, Hamlet tells his mother not to sleep with Claudius anymore. He wants his mother to be virtuous, and he forcefully urges her to do so. Laertes is also concerned about a female character, his sister Ophelia. He expresses his concern over her relationship with Hamlet. He makes a point of telling this to her before he leaves for France. He warns her that Hamlet will just hurt her in the long run, because he most likely will not marry a woman of her rank. He also makes a point that she too should remain virtuous and not loose [sic; a dangerous error here -- some readers will wander off...

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