Essay, Research Paper: Hamlet And Phelia

Shakespeare: Hamlet

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In his plays, Shakespeare often puts the antagonists in circumstances similar to
or resembling the problems of the main character or hero. He does this in order
to give us a clear perception of what the characters are like, through contrast
or similarity between them. These literary experiments are called foils. In
Hamlet, Shakespeare gives us many foils for Hamlet, the main character. One
major foil is Ophelia. Hamlet and Ophelia have both lost their fathers. In the
beginning of the play it seems that Hamlet is mourning too much and over
reacting, but when Ophelia loses her father it makes Hamlet’s mourning seem
subtle. Ophelia is very affected by her father’s death and it eventually leads
to a factor in her insanity and death. This changes the way we look at Hamlet
and Ophelia. Another foil for Hamlet is Polonius, Laertes’ and Ophelia’s
father. Hamlet and Polonius are both very quick to speak or and lash out in
excitement. Both of them have made major mistakes because of this unwanted
trait. Hamlet has, on many occasions, spoken too quickly or acted out of rage or
ignorance and hurt himself and others. When Polonius spies on Hamlet and the
Queen, Hamlet thinks that it is the king who is spying behind the curtain, and
without knowing who it really is he stabs Polonius and kills him. Polonius also
has the same problem, but with much tamer results. Polonius usually ends up just
making himself sound like a babbling fool by not thinking things out first. He
never really hurt anyone and his slaying by Hamlet’s sword makes Hamlet seem
more the fool. This foil gives Hamlet the image of a violent person that
doesn’t know how to control his emotions, and in this instance he almost
becomes the antagonist. Hamlet also has foils that aren’t as close to him.
Like the young Fortinbras, the nephew to the king of Norway. Fortinbras’
father, the king was killed, and his uncle, the king’s brother took over the
crown. The exact same thing happened to Hamlet. Both countries also have a
prince who feels that they were robbed from the crown. Fortinbras, in contrast
to Hamlet, takes an active role in Norway’s leadership. In act IV scene 4, he
leads an army on to Poland. He also does this because he want’s to avenge his
father’s death by taking what he believes to be rightfully his. Hamlet spends
most of his time sulking or complaining, and it makes him seem a little spoiled
and cowardly, as if he doesn’t want to face the world. He keeps his plot for
revenge a secret. In somewhat the same manner Laertes is a foil to Hamlet. He
too seeks revenge for his father’s death, and does it very openly. He goes as
far as getting a mob together supporting him to be king. It seems radical but it
probably would have been better for Hamlet to go about things this way. If he
hadn’t kept it in the castle a lot of bad things wouldn’t have happened.
Hamlet could have saved a lot of trouble if he went about things the way Laertes
did, but then we would have a boring play. Another thing for Hamlet and Laertes
is their love for Ophelia. Obviously they are completely different kinds of
love, but both are extremely strong. Laertes cares greatly for his sister and
gives her strong advice concerning her and Hamlet. He warns her against keeping
a relation with him, showing that he doesn’t like Hamlet. After Ophelia
rejects Hamlet, his love dies off and he gets pale and sickly, showing how much
he cared for her. It is strange that both these characters care so much for
Ophelia but hate each other to death. When Ophelia dies, both are shocked and
enraged. In the end at her burial they both end up jumping into Ophelia’s
grave and fighting each other over her dead body. Their extreme love for her and
profound hate for each other is almost a mystery. Laertes also, like his father,
has the same rashness and spontaneity as Hamlet. There are many, many foils
throughout this play, some completely obvious, and some scarcely noticeable. In
“Hamlet”, Hamlet has a foil with almost ever other character in it. Foils
greatly enrich all literature and tell us much more than meets the eye about a
specific character and the decisions they make. Literary Phenomena like this
make great stories masterpieces.
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