The Foils of Hamlet in Shakespeare's Hamlet

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 514 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 514|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Hamlet and Laertes: A Duel of Contrasts
  2. Ophelia and Hamlet: A Tragic Love Story
  3. Conclusion

William Shakespeare's play Hamlet is renowned for its complex characters and intricate plot. One of the key elements that adds depth to the play is the use of foils, characters who contrast with the protagonist, Hamlet, and highlight his traits and actions. These foils serve to emphasize and further develop the themes and motifs present in the play. This essay will explore the various foils in Hamlet and analyze their significance in relation to the central character.

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Hamlet and Laertes: A Duel of Contrasts

One of the most prominent foils in Hamlet is Laertes, the impulsive and hot-headed foil to Hamlet's introspective and contemplative nature. Laertes' hasty actions and desire for revenge mirror Hamlet's own struggle with vengeance. However, while Hamlet ultimately hesitates and questions his actions, Laertes acts swiftly and without hesitation. This contrast showcases the different approaches taken by the two characters in dealing with similar situations.

Furthermore, Laertes' loyalty and commitment to his family, particularly his father Polonius, provides a stark contrast to Hamlet's strained relationship with his own family. Laertes' willingness to avenge his father's death serves as a foil to Hamlet's prolonged indecisiveness in seeking justice for his own father's murder. This juxtaposition highlights the theme of filial duty and the lengths individuals are willing to go for their loved ones.

Moreover, the differences in the characters' reactions to their fathers' deaths also add depth to their foiled relationship. While Hamlet seeks solace in his grief and contemplates the nature of death, Laertes channels his sorrow into rage and seeks immediate retribution. This contrast emphasizes Hamlet's introspective nature and his constant questioning, while also highlighting Laertes' impulsive and vengeful disposition.

Ophelia and Hamlet: A Tragic Love Story

Another significant foil in Hamlet is Ophelia, Hamlet's love interest. Ophelia's innocence and obedience to her father's wishes contrast with Hamlet's disillusionment and rebellion against authority figures. This juxtaposition highlights the societal expectations placed on individuals, particularly women, during the Elizabethan era.

Additionally, Ophelia's descent into madness mirrors Hamlet's feigned madness, presenting two contrasting forms of madness. While Hamlet's madness is a calculated and strategic act, Ophelia's madness is a result of her overwhelming emotions and the pressures imposed upon her. This contrast showcases the different ways in which individuals cope with the complexities of their lives.

Furthermore, Ophelia's tragic demise serves as a foil to Hamlet's indecisiveness and inability to take action. While Ophelia's death is a direct consequence of the events unfolding in the play, Hamlet's hesitations lead to the deaths of numerous other characters. This contrast highlights the consequences of inaction and the destructive nature of Hamlet's introspective nature.

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In conclusion, the foils in Hamlet play a crucial role in highlighting and further developing the complex themes and motifs present in the play. The contrasting characteristics and actions of Laertes and Ophelia serve to emphasize Hamlet's introspective nature, his struggle with vengeance, and his strained relationships. Through these foils, Shakespeare explores the human condition, the consequences of inaction, and the societal expectations placed upon individuals. By employing foils, Shakespeare adds depth and complexity to the character of Hamlet, ultimately creating a timeless masterpiece that continues to captivate audiences.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

The Foils of Hamlet in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 21, 2024, from
“The Foils of Hamlet in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
The Foils of Hamlet in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Jul. 2024].
The Foils of Hamlet in Shakespeare’s Hamlet [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 21]. Available from:
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