Hamlet Foils

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In William Shakespeare's Hamlet and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, the authors show the development of individuals and perspectives, as a result of exposure to outside events and internal struggle. Since changes are often subtle, both authors use the literary device known as foil characters-- a character that contrasts with the protagonists, to highlight specific temperaments or qualities. The protagonists, of both works, have widely different interactions with the foil characters; in Hamlet, Laertes and Hamlet, are mismatched and create conflict. Alternatively, they can compliment the protagonist, such as Jane Bennet to Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Shakespeare and Austen use the foil characters to highlight the protagonists'…show more content…
When he returns to the castle, he enters "in a riotous head"(4.5.100), and bursts in and says to Claudius, "...O thou vile king, / Give me my father" (4.5.113-114) as he believes Claudius killed Polonius. To this Claudius replies “What is the cause, Laertes, / That thy rebellion looks so giant-like?--"(4.5.119-120). Laertes is the embodiment of Hamlet's rage and desire for revenge, however where Hamlet hesitates, Laertes acts without questioning or thinking. As in this case, he bursts in the castle, and confronts the king and calls him "vile", without thinking of the consequences of speaking to the king in such a manner and accusing him of murder. Hence, unlike Hamlet, Laertes is driven by impulsiveness causing him to act without thinking, which emphasizes Hamlet's indecisiveness. In this manner, the author utilizes the foil character Laertes to highlight Hamlet's contrasting characteristics. Similarly, Fortinbras parallels Hamlet's situation even more, as they both lost their father, and their right to the throne, to their uncle. However, their attitudes contrast as they differ in disposition;…show more content…
Due to the opposing temperaments of the foil characters, their interactions with the protagonist, either have a major effect on the story or their character development. In Hamlet, the lack of influence of an active character, such as Laertes, or Fortinbras, delays his development. Laertes is absent for a majority of the play, and when he does return, both he and Hamlet are in opposition to each other. The result of their opposing temperaments, interacting in such a negative fashion, is disastrous. When Laertes discovers that his father was murdered, he says “To hell, allegiance! Vows to the blackest devil! / Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit! / I dare damnation” (4.5.130-132).Consumed with rage his impulsiveness, he abandons his morality and accepts Claudius' account, "even though Claudius is obviously an interested party seeking to exonerate himself" (Smith, 223). Without regard for the moral consequences, he agrees to sabotage the match, which proves to be fatal, as the rapier he poisoned, also cuts him as well. In a like manner, Hamlet's morals contribute to his inaction, which indirectly results in the involvement of others, and results in his death. In contrast, Fortinbras has a positive interaction with Hamlet and motivates him to return to Denmark. When he sees Fortinbras and his army, he is inspired to take action and “from this time

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