A foil character is described as a character in a literary work that compliments the main character through similarites and differences through their personalities. We can recognize similarities and differences between Hamlet and any of the characters, but, there are two characters in the play that have so much in common with Hamlet that they must be described as the most important foils. The characters are Laertes and Fortinbras. It is the resemblances between Laertes, Fortinbras and Hamlet that make the differences so noticeable and thus helps shape the character of Hamlet.
Laertes and Hamlet have many similarities between themselves. For example, both Hamlet and Laertes are looking to avenge their father's deaths, but, the time spent on this is considerably different. Hamlet takes months before he finally kills his uncle and even then the killing was because of his mother's accidental death not because of his father's murder. Hamlet says, "Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned, Dane, Drink off this potion. Is thy union here? Follow my mother" (V ii l. 318-319). Laertes on the other hand pursued revenge as soon as he heard of the death of his father. He returned to Elsinore and threatened the king and demanded to see his father's body. Laertes says, "I thank you: keep the door. O thou vile king, Give me my father" (IV v l. 114). Only about a day goes by before Laertes and Hamlet compete in a duel that Laertes revenges his father's death with the swing of a poison tipped sword. Laertes declares, "Have at you now. (Laertes wounds Hamlet; then, in scuffling, they change rapiers, and Hamlet wounds Laertes)" (V ii l. 294). The difference of time spent on revenge by the characters is very meaningful because it shows the reader what is expected from a son according to principles of time. .
Hamlet and Fortinbras, the Prince of Norway, also have many similarities and differences between them in the play.