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.

Expert Answers

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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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