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…show more content…
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
Laertes, a young Danish lord, is the son of Polonius and brother of Ophelia. He spends most of his time off at college, but, like a lot of college students, he manages to pack a lot of action into the few times he's home.
Foil to Hamlet
After Hamlet kills Polonius, Laertes faces the same problem that Hamlet does —a murdered father. And that's where the similarities end. While Hamlet lollygags and broods over the murder for much of the play, Laertes takes immediate action. He storms home from France as soon as he hears the news, raises a crowd of followers, and invades the palace, saying "That drop of blood that's calm proclaims me bastard." in other words, not being upset by his father's death would prove that his mother was stepping out on his dad.
It's only after he storms the castle with a band of armed men that he starts asking questions —unlike Hamlet, who asks a whole lot of questions before he finally gets around to avenging his father's death. Here's the funny thing, though: both of them end up dead, in exactly the same way, and at each other's hands. So, is Laertes' method really any better than Hamlet's?
Big Brother: A little more than kin?
Laertes obviously loves his dad. And he loves his little sis, too—maybe even a little too much. He makes a huge deal about Ophelia's "unpolluted flesh" at her funeral, just before he screams at the priest to rot in hell and leaps into Ophelia's grave while shouting "Hold off the earth awhile, / Till I have caught her once more in mine arms" (5.1.261-262). This, of course, happens just before Laertes fights with his dead sister's ex-boyfriend about who loved Ophelia the most.
Yep, we're thinking that there's a little "more than kin" at work here. And that's not too surprising, in a play that revolves around a young man who's consumed with his mother's sexuality and marriage to her brother-in-law. And in the end, Laertes' obsession with his family ends up killing him—just as it kills Hamlet. Is Shakespeare advising us all to chill out a little with the tribal allegiances? Or is death just a part of loving your family?Laertes' Timeline