B.) Through sharp contrast, a character foil enhances certain traits of a central character. Analyze how secondary characters operate as foils and are employed to develop theme in Hamlet.
In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, it is proven that secondary characters help develop the understanding of the main character as foils. Foils help the reader make comparisons between the major and minor characters through parallels. During the play we see many of Hamlet’s strengths and weaknesses through characters like Laertes and Fortinbras. Other minor characters include Ophelia, Polonius, and Gertrude who contributes to Hamlets so called madness, which helps develop the theme of a hero’s fatal flaw of overthinking leading to tragedy. In this essay I will explain the similarities, differences and relationships between each foil and how their behaviors affect Hamlet personally. Throughout the play Hamlet displays a difficulty in making final decisions due to his overthinking unlike Laertes and Fortinbras who tends to make rash decisions based upon feelings. Firstly, Hamlet’s inability to kill Claudius is foiled by Fortinbras’ willingness to avenge his father’s lost kingdom over a small piece of land. Secondly, Hamlet and Laertes have different types relationships with their fathers, Hamlet despises Claudius where as Laertes loved Polonius. These relationships cause both Laertes and Hamlet wanting to avenge the murders of their fathers but for different reasons. While Laertes is determined to instantly retaliate, Hamlet on the other hand prolongs his revenge due to his natural flaw of overanalyzing. Thirdly, both Laertes and Hamlet have similar obsessions towards their women and the preservation of sanctity. Hamlet is confused and enraged about his mother’s incestuous marriage to his uncle and Laertes is anxious about his sister’s relationship with Hamlet. The parallels between the secondary foils help the audiences gain a better understanding of Hamlet’s fatal flaw of over-processing throughout the play.
In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Fortinbras the prince of Norway and Hamlet the prince of Denmark share many similarities and differences thus making Fortinbras an important secondary character and a foil to Hamlet. Fortinbras’ father was slain by Hamlet’s father and Hamlet’s father, Hamlet Sr was poisoned his brother Claudius who is now the king of Denmark. Fortinbras wishes to attack Denmark to avenge his father’s honor and Hamlet wishes to someday kill Claudius as revenge for his father. “This is th’impostume of much wealth and peace, that inward breaks and shows no cause without why the man dies” (A.4.s4, 26-28). Hamlet remarks on Fortinbras invasion and views it as unnecessary but Fortinbras tells the captain to lie to the king assuring him that his only intentions were to travel through Denmark to get to Poland. This is the first time Fortinbras is shown as a real and imminent threat to the state of Denmark. “Why yet I live to say this thing’s to do, Sith I have cause and will and strength and means to do’t.” (A.4.s4, 43-44). Hamlet contemplates his purpose of living and questions why he cannot go through with murdering Claudius. He is coming to a realization that his plan is taking a long time to execute and every single advantage is on his side except the act itself. “Witness this army of such mass and charge led by a delicate and tender prince, whose spirit divine ambition puffed makes mouths at the invisible event, exposing what is moral and unsure to all that fortune, death, and danger dare, even for an eggshell” (A.4.s4, 46-52). Hamlet shows admiration for the prince’s ambition to fight for no good reason but is aware of the severity of war. In this scene we see Hamlet succumbing to his over analytic thought process while Fortinbras is planning to defeat the king with little judgment. Fortinbras ability to act foils Hamlet’s inability to act, while Fortinbras is attacking without regard towards himself, his men or his country...
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