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Use Of Foil Characters In Hamlet, By William Shakespeare

1159 words - 5 pages

Hamlet by William Shakespeare is a tragedy that makes great use of foil characters. Shakespeare uses the minor characters to help give his main character, Hamlet, more definition and multi-faceted characteristics. Foils are able to do this by contrasting their traits to those of the main character. One major foil in Hamlet is Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle. Claudius responds to situations with a decisive manor, has few morals if any and he is always power-hungry and will do anything to get that power.
Hamlet has a more of an impulsive nature, that he struggles to control through out the play, however Claudius has a more methodical nature. He is very indecisive and sometimes this leads to a hasty decision in which he gives his enemies the advantage. When he encounters the Ghost for the first time, he wants to appear brave in front of Marcellus and Horatio, so he decides to say,
"My fate cries out
And makes each petty artere in this body
As hardy as the Nemean lion's nerve.
Still am I called. Unhand me, gentlemen.
By heaven, I'll make a ghost of him that lets me!
I say, away! Go on. I'll follow thee
(I; iv; 83-86)."

Hall 2
This shows that Hamlet made a rash decision to follow the Ghost. Claudius on the other hand thinks about his decisions, such as his methodical plot to kill old Hamlet while he was alone sleeping, and the idea to use poison to do so, this way it would appear to be a natural death. Hamlet on the other hand has a very hasty and impulsive nature, but he learns to tame it as the book goes on. He starts off being a show off and following the ghost, then he learns about his fathers' murder which "drives him mad" (or so everyone thinks he is for no defined reason), but he does not let these emotions control him completely because he learns to demonstrate restraint when he is in the confessional. Although Hamlet would love to kill Claudius he knows better and decides to be more patient and plan for a time when he is sure of Claudius' destination after death. On the other hand in the end of the book, when Claudius devises a plan to kill off Hamlet, he comes up with a couple of ideas, the first of which is having Laertes duel Hamlet, but by cheating with a sharpened, poisoned sword instead of the normal one like Hamlet would have. If that failed, Claudius came up with another plan to poison Hamlet by offering him a congratulatory (poisoned) drink for winning the duel. Hamlet was not as deceitful in his plans, he was to rash to make any long term plans like Claudius has that is why he acted on impulse and stabbed who he that was Claudius when in fact it was Polonius behind the curtain in his mothers' room.
The moral laws of the land did not apply to Claudius, or so he thought since he was the newly crowned king. He did not pay much attention to them and just did what he wanted to do instead. Hamlet was the polar opposite, always worrying about what the right thing to do is. When Hamlet contemplates, in a moral battle, whether he is going to...

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