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Foils In Hamlet Essay, Research Paper
The Foils of Hamlet
Hamlet, Fortinbras and Laertes have something in common. All their fathers have been killed and they are searching for some way to channel their mourning. They want to avenge their father’s death some way. Fortinbras wants to conquer land, no matter how small or worthless. As Hamlet says to the captain, “Goes it against the main of Poland, sir or for some frontier?” And the captain replies, “We go to gain a little patch of ground that hath in it no profit but the name. To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it /nor will it yield to Norway or the Pole A ranker state, should it be sold in fee” (Act IV, scene iv, lines 15-22). He is a warrior and feels that he has to be in some sort of confrontation involving war.
Laertes wants to kill just as Hamlet wants to kill his uncle. They both have the same strong desire to kill but Laertes wants to do it as soon as possible. At first he goes after Claudius thinking that he was the one who killed his father, Polonius. “How came he dead? I’ll not be juggled with. To hell allegiance, vows to the blackest devil, conscience and grace to the profoundest pit!” (Act IV, scene v, lines130-132). Then when he finds out that Hamlet was to blame; he and the king come up with a plan to catch Hamlet. The King tells Laertes, “Revenge should have no bounds. But good Laertes, will you do this? Keep close within your chamber. Hamlet returned shall know you are come home. We’ll put on those should praise your excellence And set a double varnish on the fame The Frenchman gave you, bring you in fine together And wager on your heads. He, being remiss, Most generous, and free all from contriving, Will not peruse the foils, so that with ease, Or with a little shuffling, you may choose A sword unbated, and, in a pass of practice, Requite him for your father.” Laertes replies, ” I will do’t”(Act IV, scene vii lines 127-139). Laertes wants to kill Hamlet so badly that he agrees to go under the king’s rule. The King asks, “If it be so, Laertes (As how should it be so? How otherwise?) Will you be ruled by me?” Laertes says, “Ay my lord, so you will not o’errule me to apeace” (Act IV, scene vii, lines 57-61).
Hamlet is the most confused of the three. He states that he is only pretending to be crazy. “I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a hand saw” (Act II, scene ii, lines 401-403). As the story unfolds we are led to believe that he really is mad. Hamlet wants to avenge his father’s death by killing his uncle, King Claudius. Hamlet gets the chance many times to kill the King but never takes advantage of his opportunity. “Up sword, and know thou a more horrid hent. When he is drunk asleep or in his rage, or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed. At game a-swearing, or about some act that has no relish of salvation in’t- then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven and that his soul may be as damned and black as hell whereto it goes. My Mother stays. This physic prolongs thy sickly days”(Act III, scene iii, lines 88-101). Hamlet is constantly having an inner battle with himself. All three of these men are similar; in the way that they all want revenge yet separate in how they carry out with their plans involving revenge. Together they would have almost perfect qualities. Each on there own they are flawed in some way.
Shakespeare used Fortinbras and Laertes in the play so that the reader could compare and contrast them with Hamlet. Hamlet is always in two minds about something whereas Fortinbras is dominant with one decision and then goes off to conquer land in Poland. Hamlet is also confused about whether he should kill his uncle. Just when you think Hamlet is ready to kill the King he has a moral dilemma and postpones it for later. Laertes on the other hand is positive that the only way to avenge his Father’s death is by killing the killer (Hamlet). He is certain that this is the right thing to do, he never looks back after making a choice.
The reader is then (after seeing the comparison and contrast) able to see how vulnerable Hamlet is, we are able to see his faults because these two other characters, Laertes and Fortinbras, essentially have everything that Hamlet needs, direction, certainty and confidence. Throughout the play Hamlet is making up plans and tricks of how he will catch the King and trick everyone in the kingdom, but when we, the readers, see how these three compare we can really see just how weak and flawed Hamlet is. Even an actor seems to have power over the prince of Denmark. The actor can get so into his work that he starts crying. Hamlet envies him for that. “What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba that he should weep for her? What would he do had he the motive and the cue for passion that I have? He would drown the stage with tears and clear the general ear with horrid speech, make mad the guilty and appall the free”(Act II, scene ii, lines 586-591). His own uncle who married his mother killed hamlet s father and Hamlet is unable to shed a tear.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a story of how three men deal with mourning for their fathers’ deaths. Today we are still forced to deal with the hardship of mourning loss and death. These three characters chose extreme actions to get through their mourning. Shakespeare shows that the pain of losing a father as well as flawed character can push a man to the ultimate sacrifice, death.
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