The Foils of Hamlet

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A foil is a minor character in a literary work that compliments the main character through similarities and differences in personality and plot. In William Shakespeare's play "Hamlet", the main character, Hamlet, has three major foils. These foils are his close friend Horatio, Fortinbras, Prince of Norway, and the brother of his love, Laertes. These three characters contradict and enhance Hamlet's major characteristics.

Hamlet's friend Horatio is a foil for him because he brings out the revenge and betrayal in Hamlet. He is a listener for Hamlet. Horatio seems to be the only one who is sympathetic of Hamlet concerning the death of his father and his mother's quick remarriage. He is very loyal to Hamlet. Horatio, through conversation, develops Hamlet's image. He is the only person Hamlet can come and talk to about all that is going on in his life. Hamlet uses Horatio as a release and tells Horatio some of the plans he has in order to take revenge. In act 2, scene 1, Hamlet tells Horatio that however odd he may act, it is just that, an act. Hamlet trusts Horatio not to tell his secret and not to give him away. He also tells Horatio of his plan to catch Claudius during the play, and he asks Horatio to watch every emotion of the king. When Hamlet came back from England and his terrible trip, Horatio is the character that Hamlet first went to see. Hamlet tells Horatio how he was tricked by the king, and how the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern came to be. Horatio is seen as the window or insight into what Hamlet feels and what he does.

Being an ambitious young prince is a similarity between Fortinbras and Hamlet. They are both on a mission of revenge for the loss of their fathers. A difference in these characters is that Fortinbras took action while Hamlet procrastinated. Fortinbras was more eager to prove his courage than Hamlet. Fortinbras had no trouble slaying the innocent whereas Hamlet had a problem slaying the guilty. Denmark is a...
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