Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, Play Study

Decent Essays

Do opposites attract? Or just want to destroy one another? Foils highlight the characteristics of the protagonist by contrasting their behavior to other characters. Hamlet is a foil to Fortinbras, Laertes, Horatio, and Claudius. Hamlet’s father kills Fortinbras’s father, Claudius kills Hamlet’s father, and Hamlet kills Laertes’s father. Each character reacts differently to the situations they are put in. Though similar in some ways, the character differences are magnified when they are challenged. Fortinbras is opposite Hamlet when it comes to their behavior in regards to their circumstance. Hamlet’s father has been murdered and Hamlet was passed over as heir to the throne. Likewise, Fortinbras had his father and his throne taken from him (at the hands of Hamlet’s father). However, the ways the two react to their similar situations differ substantially. Hamlet indecisively contemplates revenge while Fortinbras actively engages an army to avenge his father. It is in this action that Fortinbras successfully regains the throne that belonged to him, and it is in the inaction that tortures Hamlet. Fortinbras is similar to Hamlet - both lost their fathers, both are princes of their respective nations. But where Hamlet is primarily concerned with internal politics in Denmark, Fortinbras is engaged in real leadership of the Norwegian armies and expands his country's territory.
Laertes is another foil character of Hamlet. When Laertes discovers that his father, Polonius, has been

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