In to gain a better understanding of Hamlet,

        In Hamlet, it
seems as though every character in some way, acts as a foil to Hamlet. Givinhg
the relationship, the three major man foils to Hamlet are Fortinbras, Laertes
and Claudius. It seems Shakespeare created these foils in order for his
audience to gain a better understanding of Hamlet, by giving him characters to
relate to. Hamlet revolves mostly around his deep thoughts and performed
madness, which helps us in understanding his psychological processes. But by
the art of paralleling the three different characters (Claudius, Laertes and
Fortinbras) with Hamlet, Shakespeare reveals much deeper about Hamlet’s
personality than just through his own personal thoughts and actions. Hamlet’s
situation seems to be almost similar to the situation of these three men,
respectivel. He’s a father- murderer as well as someone whose father was
murdered, and through Claudius and Laertes actions and reactions, we can
evaluate Hamlet more thoroughly as a character.

Fortinbras:

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       Shakespeare
reveals many importance throughout the play using Hamlet and Fortinbras’s
characters. To consider those importance, the comparison between the two is
very essential. Such comparison reveal a lot about both the characters and the
story of the play as a whole. There is a lot similar between both of these
characters and at the same time they have equal differences.

       The similarities
between these two are that the character Fortinbras in Hamlet is a young prince
of Norway. He has been used as a foil for the main character Hamlet, who is the
Prince of Denmark. Both Hamlet and Fortinbras have lost their fathers. Hamlet’s
father, King Hamlet, was murdered by his uncle Claudius and Fortinbras’ father
was killed by King Hamlet in the battle. Both Hamlet and Fortinbras have vowed
to take revenge of their fathers’ deaths. However, their way of taking on
revenge is the completely opposite of each other.

       On one hand, Hamlet, after
learning the truth about his father’s death that it was a murder committed by
Claudius , promise to take revenge, after waiting and making sure what was the
absolute truth before his very first attempt to take revenge on Claudius. Even
after confirming that Claudius is the murderer, Hamlet hesitates to kill him.
On the other hand, Fortinbras has been planning on revenge even before the play
begins. As the play opens, we learn in Act 1 that Denmark is in a state of alert.
The audience comes to know that the country has been preparing for a war, and
from Horatio, the audience also learns that the young Fortinbras is getting
ready his “lawless resolutes” for action against Denmark for the
killing of his father and for the return of lands previously owned by Norway,
(Hamlet I.i. 79-107). They both also differ when it comes to the way of
expressing their grieve for their dead fathers. Hamlet is more melancholy and
tormented by his thoughts for about two months while Fortinbras is shown as
very rash and bold who acts on his first instincts (i.e. revenge) and does not
overthink. These are the basic differences between Hamlet’s and Fortinbras’ characters.

 

Laertes:

 

      Another
character who acts as a foil for Hamlet is Laertes. He is the son of Polonius
and brother of Ophelia (Hamlet’s love interest). The reason they both act as
foil to each other, is since each son has had a father murdered in cold blood.
They both relate in their circumstances, however both differ in their reactions
to the death of their respective fathers.

      The basic
similarity between these two characters is that Hamlet’s father, King Hamlet
was poisoned by his uncle Claudius, who then takes the crown and marries his
mother. Resulting in Hamlet being discarded as heir. Similarly Laertes father
Polonius was also murdered by Hamlet (accidently). This not only makes him
parallel to the situation of Hamlet, but also makes him a foil against him
which ultimately resulted to the death of both him and Hamlet. They both believed
that the murderers had dishonoured their fathers as well as themselves so they
both reacted (took different approaches in attempt) to restore their family
honor.

      The major contrast between these two
characters is their reactions to their fathers’ deaths. After Hamlet learns
that his father is killed he states that; “Haste me to know’t, that I, with
wings as swift as meditation or the thought love, may sweep to my
revenge.”(1.5.29-31). This quote suggest that Hamlet is going to get revenge
for his father’s death right away, however throughout the play, Hamlet is
conflicted often contemplating revenge, rather than taking action. This sets
him apart from Laertes as he, after his father’s death doesn’t sit around
thinking about the consequences his actions might bring, he just acts. “To
hell, allegiance! Vows to the blackest devil! Conscience and grace, to the
profoundest pit! I dare damnation. To this point I stand, That both the worlds
I give to negligence, Let come what comes; only I’ll be revenged. Most
thoroughly for my father.” (4.5.140-145)

 

Claudius:

     The major foil for the protagonist of the
play is Hamlet’s uncle and the new king, Claudius. He is the main villain
around whom the whole plot of murder and revenge revolve. He murdered his
brother King Hamlet and married his wife, thus becoming a major foil for prince
Hamlet.

     A comparison can be drawn between Hamlet’s
and Claudius’s manipulation, ambitiousness and the means by which they give
false impressions about their character. Although they are contrasting
characters, yet they both share many similarities. In act 3.2 when Claudius
delivers his monologue on the nature of his deeds, it showed that how similar
he and Hamlet were throughout the play. Claudius’ language shows indecision, of
a man who is trapped by the oaths he made to himself: “Pray can I not, /Though
inclination be as sharp as will./My 
stronger guilt defeats my strong intent, /  And like a man to double business bound/ I
stand in pause where I shall first begin, / And both neglect” (3.3.40-3).On one
hand there is a part of him that wants to exonerate himself of his sins,
perhaps by accepting the punishment fit for his cruel crime. But on the other
hand, he doesn’t want to give up the throne and power that he acquired from
this act. This shows how his guilt is stronger than his will to repent.

     Similarly Hamlet has the “strong intent”
of avenging his father’s death, but this intent is many times defeated by
internal debates and confusions about the outcome of his actions. He too is
double business bound. He always weighs two courses of action against each
other which leads to him ending up neglecting both courses. Claudius and Hamlet
are both are very selfish in nature. Claudius wants to be the king of Denmark.
For this, he killed Gertrude’s husband because he wanted to marry Gertrude and
have the throne for himself. “Anon comes in a fellow, takes off his crown,
kisses it, and pours poison in the KING’s ears, and exit.” (III, ii, 126).
Claudius does not care about Gertrude but yet he makes her feel that he loves
her just to remain as King. Similarly, Hamlet is also very selfish. He hates Claudius
the most and the only thoughts that clouds his head are killing Claudius to
avenge his father’s death. “Haste me to know’t, that I, with wings as
swift As meditation or the thoughts of love, may sweep to my revenge.”(I,
v, 29-31). As hamlet only thinks about his revenge, he does not consider
Ophelia’s feelings and treats her very badly. Hamlet is so caught up in his
thoughts, that he even kills Ophelia’s father considering him to be Claudius.
This tells that they both do not care about anybody but themselves. This is the
reason that the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia and Claudius and
Gertrude did not last.

 

      While Hamlet and Claudius are very
manipulative, they both have different approaches in their manipulation of
friends, family and colleagues. While Claudius work on gaining people’s trust
so that they are willing to go above and beyond in order to please or help him
(ex- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern spy on Hamlet for Claudius), on the other
hand, Hamlet purposely turns everyone against him and causes everyone to think
he has gone crazy to disguise his plan to revenge his father’s death. (ex- When
Hamlet kills Polonius while he was behind the curtain spying on him). Unlike
Hamlet, who is very impulsive, Claudius thinks about his actions before he acts
upon them. He wants to make sure he makes a decision that will be the best for
him. He is aware of the fact that if he just kills Hamlet, the people of the
kingdom, who love prince Hamlet will turn on him and he can lose his power of
King.

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