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Character Foils in HamletPeople talk about how Laertes and Young Fortinbras are foils...

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quentin1 | Honors

Posted June 17, 2012 at 6:35 PM via web

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Character Foils in Hamlet

People talk about how Laertes and Young Fortinbras are foils to Hamlet. Do you think that those characters' families are foils to each other as well? For example, when Hamlet and his family talk about values, they talk about Christian values. Hamlet, Claudius, and his father's ghost all talk about judgment and the afterlife. When Laertes and his family talk about values, they talk about custom and habit--what some call "appearances." Young Fortinbras and his family could be described as a clan with primitive values of family loyalty and violence--what some would call "an eye for an eye."

Do you think the interaction of these three families and the conflicts within these families illustrates larger ethical themes of the play? As usual, I don't know, but I'm interested in what others have to say about it.

Tagged with discussion, hamlet, literature

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted July 9, 2012 at 6:57 PM (Answer #2)

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I most definitely think you bring up an interesting idea, and I agree with your premise about the conflicts between the families. What makes the play so interesting is that there is merit in each families' world view, but the reader is still, ultimately, cheering for Hamlet. We see in the end that Hamlet wins (gets his revenge) but loses (his life and loved ones). Is that much carnage a real success? That is one of the more interesting thematic discussions a reader can have once they close the pages of the play.

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catlady29 | Student , College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:43 PM (Answer #3)

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I see your point, and I think it is possible to argue that Laertes and Young Fortinbras are foils to eachother. Laertes comes off as proper and conservative, while Young Fortinbras appears rugged and violent. This, like you said, is shown by what their families value, and also their actions. 

When I think of how they're foils to Hamlet, I immediately think of how quick they are to take action. Hamlet plays mad, makes sure the ghost is his father, and waits for the proper moment to kill his uncle. Polonuis is finally killed due to Hamlet being poisoned, thus, out of time.

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catlady29 | Student , College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 11, 2012 at 10:01 PM (Answer #4)

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I see your point, and I think it is possible to argue that Laertes and Young Fortinbras are foils to eachother. Laertes comes off as proper and conservative, while Young Fortinbras appears rugged and violent. This, like you said, is shown by what their families value, and also their actions. 

When I think of how they're foils to Hamlet, I immediately think of how quick they are to take action. Hamlet plays mad, makes sure the ghost is his father, and waits for the proper moment to kill his uncle. Polonuis is finally killed due to Hamlet being poisoned, thus, out of time.

Ugh. Instead of Polonuis, I mean Claudius.

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