Laertes and Horatio as Foils for Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

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Laertes and Horatio as Foils for Hamlet

In the play, Hamlet , Shakespeare uses a cast of characters that have many roles. Of this cast, Shakespeare uses two characters, Laertes and Horatio, as foils for Hamlet’s character. Through similarities and differences these characters, accentuate Hamlet’s pretense of being crazy, emphasize how Hamlet is an improper son by standards of the time and cause him to be a tragic hero.

A foil is a minor character that helps develop a major character by sharing similarities and differences with the main character. This is a common practice Shakespeare uses within many of his plays. The use of
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Hamlet takes months before he finally kills his uncle and even then the killing was because of his mother’s accidental death not because of his father’s murder. Hamlet had numerous opportunities to kill his uncle but he never took advantage of them. Laertes on the other hand sought revenge as soon as he heard of the death of his father. He returned to Elsinore and threatened the king and demanded to see his father’s body. Only the matter of maybe a day goes by before the duel happens and Laertes revenges his father’s death.

The difference in the time spent on revenge by the characters is significant because it shows the reader what is expected from a son according to standards of the time. In Act one, Scene three, Laertes is being told the responsibilities of a young man and the importance of protecting the family’s honor. Part of protecting the family’s honor is revenging any wrongful deaths. If one is truly concerned with protecting the family name, seeking vengeance would most likely be a top priority; not something delayed for months on end. Therefore Laertes as a foil for Hamlet is significant because Laertes is a more dutiful son and seeks his vengeance quickly. Since he delays his vengeance for so many months, Hamlet is not a dutiful son. [This is a nice idea, but Fortinbras would be an even better foil to make this point.]

Another foil for
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