Hamlet Foils Fortinbras

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In Hamlet, one of Shakespeare’s most recognizable plays, Shakespeare portrays a great example of a literary foil between Fortinbras and Hamlet. Fortinbras, a minor character, possesses traits that emphasize Hamlet’s distinctive qualities. Fortinbras’ characteristics bring out both the worst and the best out Hamlet throughout the play.

In Act IV Scene IV, Hamlet’s soliloquy points out every one of Fortinbras’ qualities that Hamlet admires. Fortinbras inspires Hamlet to be a man of action. Hamlet knows that he has been thinking too precisely on the event of killing Claudius. On the other hand, Fortinbras is ambitious and takes actions for what the believes in. For example, in the letter to the King, Young Fortinbras made it clear that he was going to get back the land his father lost. King Fortinbras’ death gave his son determination and motivation to make his father proud.

Unlike Fortinbras, Hamlet just weeps over his father’s death. Hamlet continues to talk about his hatred for Claudius and vows revenge for King Hamlet’s murder, but takes no action in it. In Act III Scene III, Hamlet shows his tragic flaw, procrastination. Instead of taking advantage of the only moment Hamlet has alone with Claudius, Hamlet over thinks the situation and makes up an excuse for himself to not kill Claudius. In contrast to Hamlet’s indecisiveness, Fortinbras knows what he wants and makes it happen. For instance, for Fortinbras’ plan to invade Poland to work, he independently gathered 20,000 men for his army.

Even though most of Fortinbras’ qualities contrast from Hamlet, his qualities encourage Hamlet to be at his full potential. Hamlet looked up to Fortinbras and highly respected him. Shakespeare did an excellent job of showing the foil between Fortinbras and Hamlet in his writing.
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