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Foil Characters in Shakspeare's Hamlet

            Hamlet and Laertes, two of the three main/prominent young men in Hamlet (Fortinbras being the third) are each other's foil characters. This element created by Shakespeare helped the readers better understand the depth and mystery of their characters as they are indirectly compared and contrasted throughout the play. Hence, all striking similarities and sharply contrasted differences are not a mere co-incidence. Hamlet and Laertes are compared to each other in terms of their different kind of love for the same person, Ophelia, who is the lover of the former and the sister of the latter: they both reacted in a rather violently grieving way when they saw Ophelia's corpse in the grave. One major difference, though, is that the audience was never really sure of the trueness of Hamlet's feelings for Ophelia until the end of the play when he said "I lov'd Ophelia: forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my sum" (V, i, 277-279), where as Laertes' love for Ophelia was always there since the very beginning of the play when he was advising her against believing Hamlet's love, albeit in a domineering way, just like Hamlet's attitude with his mother, the only other female in the play, as when he was advising her against sleeping with Claudius in the future. Therefore, one can note that both characters like to intervene in the romantic and sexual lives of the females closest to them, telling them what and what not to do and how to act.
             From the start of the play, Hamlet and Laertes' interests have been stated so as to show their opposing personalities. Hamlet studies at the University of Wittenberg in Germany, which is known for its study of philosophy and religion, where as Laertes studies in Paris and is eagerly waiting to go back after attending the coronation of Claudius in Denmark, not so much for studying but for the life of "drinking, fencing, swearing, quarreling, drabbing" (II, ii, 25).

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