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 - deceit.
Of the four young men who occupy a place in the life of Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern appear, at least initially, to be his closest friends. They are schoolmates at Wittenburg, and Hamlet greets them both amicably, remarking, " My excellent good friends! How dost thou,....." Queen Gertrude affirms the status of their relationship when she says, "And sure I am two men there is not living to whom he more adheres." Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are unaware, however, of the real story behind the death of Hamlet’s Father. They do not have the benefit of seeing his ghost, as Hamlet has. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are very loyal to the new King. Unlike Hamlet, they initially have no reason not to trust Claudius. But they become unwitting and unknowing pawns for both factions. Their relationship with Hamlet begins to sour. Hamlet realizes what the King is up to, and he becomes distrustful of the two. "’Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe?", Hamlet remarks in disgust. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern never address Hamlet in such a disrespectful tone, despite the change in their relationship. 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...