It is said that one cannot truly understand ones character without understanding ones character foils. In the play Hamlet, the various characters play a vital role in the story by allowing the reader to truly understand the character of Hamlet. Through comparing the different characters and their character foils one is able to gain insight on Hamlet. Shakespeare uses Laertes, Fortinbras and Horartio as a means of comparison and contrast to Hamlet's character. Through examining the similarities and differences of these characters to Hamlet, the reader is able to better recognize the character traits of Hamlet, and is able to better understand his downfall.
Laertes plays a very important role in the play, as one is able to better understand Hamlet's character by learning about him. Laertes is a mirror to Hamlet. They are both men who loved and respected their fathers and they both sought revenge for their father's death. The also both loved Ophelia; Laertes loved her as a sister, while Hamlet wanted her to be his wife. These are two men who are very proud and arrogant. They felt that they needed to prove to themselves and to each other who truly loved her most by quarrelling at Ophelia's funeral, "I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantity of love make up my sum." (pg. 255) The differences between theses two men are also important. Laertes is decisive and Hamlet is not. When called to avenge his father's death, Laertes was fast to act. He wanted revenge and he wanted it immediately. He does not think before he acts and thinks only of the consequences of his actions afterwards, "The foul practice hath turned itself on me. Lo here I lie, never to rise again." (pg. 281) Hamlet thinks over what he is to do, and how he is to avenge the murder of his father. Hamlet is the one who delays and thinks too much about everything. Through comparing and contrasting these two characters one is able to truly understand their character foils that led to their death.