The Roles of Laertes and Ophelia as Character Foils in Hamlet

Essay by thamwnHigh School, 12th gradeA+, December 2014

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Wee Nie Tham


"The spirit that I have seen May be the devil: and the devil hath power To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps Out of my weakness and my melancholy, As he is very potent with such spirits, Abuses to damn me:" (2.2.58)

In William Shakespeare's classic drama, 'Hamlet', the titular protagonist, Hamlet, is a dynamic, round character with constantly evolving traits. The character Hamlet, himself, interestingly, is not noted for what he does, but rather, is noted for his indecisiveness and lack of taking action throughout the play. Despite Hamlet having a ulterior motive throughout the play, he is constantly seen to be deliberating as to whether or not he should act on his actions. Through his numerous soliloquys, Hamlet's innermost reflections are seen, many of them contemplating existence, and the nature of the task which he has taken upon himself to carry out: the task of killing his uncle, the current King of Denmark.

In 'Hamlet', there are numerous characters, many of whom belong to either one of two families focused upon in the play: there is the royal family, consisting of Hamlet, his mother Gertrude, the Queen, and his stepfather Claudius, the current King of Denmark; and there is the family of the King's chief counselor, Polonius, which includes his daughter, Ophelia, and his son, Laertes. In both families, the parent-child relationship is heavily focused upon. Compared to the other 'children' of the play - Laertes and Ophelia - Hamlet's slow, deliberate thinking is brought to the forefront, with both Laertes and Ophelia acting as character foils to Hamlet.

Hamlet and Laertes may both be defined by their fathers, and how they react to them, as well as the way they are viewed...