Throughout history, the idea of vengeance has destroyed large communities, populations and entire civilizations. The problem with man and revenge is that one may be side tracked of why or whom he is avenging. This similar idea is conveyed in the theme of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Vengeance can confuse a man's mind and soul to the point where he may not be sure of whom he is really avenging. Shakespeare uses foils in this play to allow us readers to understand Hamlet as a man and why and whom he is really avenging.
A foil is a minor character in a literary work who by the similarities and differences in what he or she does (as compared to a more important character), or by simply being there for another character to talk to, helps the audience understand the more important character. Laertes and the ghost are foils for Hamlet in this play which help us readers understand his character and his actions. During the play, Hamlet ignores his father's (ghost) warning about his mother, pretends to be crazy, betrays Ophelia, and delays the vengeance of his father's murder. What was the cause of these actions? Why did Hamlet delay his duty of vengeance? Through the insight of the ghost and Laertes, one may be able to come to his/her own conclusions.
Laertes was a stable minded student who was Polonius's son and Ophelia's brother. He was a strong willed young man whom studied overseas, was protective of Ophelia, loved his family, and kept his loyalty to King Hamlet and then to King Claudius. Hamlet and Laertes had never been friends, for Hamlet was of a higher social class. In one aspect, Laertes respected their differences and in another. Also, hamlet had feelings for Ophelia for which Laertes despised and warranted off. Although Hamlet and Laertes differ, Laertes acts as a stable foil for Hamlet whom makes sound decisions and acts on his words instead of just speaking.
Laertes allows us readers to explore how Hamlet should have acted instead of how he did: Inactive, in a state of delay, and full of words. The moment Laertes heard of his father's death he left for Denmark, rallied up some followers, and marched past the King's guards to the Royal Court and demanded an answer. "O thou vile King, give me my father,"(Laertes, p.120) Laertes roared at the King. Claudius relays to Laertes that Hamlet is to blame and once again Laertes is ready to fight. He challenges Hamlet to a dual. Why though is Hamlet so eager to bring Laertes to his death and not Claudius whom murdered his father and destroyed his family? With Laertes as a foil, we are able to question Hamlet's actions and delay of actions.
One can sense vengeance in the presence of the ghost. The ghost or the spirit of King Hamlet walks the night in order to relay a message to his son Hamlet. When the ghost approaches Hamlet he is told that Claudius murdered his father for the crown and Gertrude's hand in marriage. He is also told not to punish his mother or, "Taint not thy mind nor let they soul contrive against thy mother aught. Leave her to heaven and to those thorns that in her bosom lodge to prick and sting her." (Ghost, p. 53) Although Hamlet believed the words of the ghost, he antagonized his mother and