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Fortinbras as Foil for Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Fortinbras as Foil for Hamlet

In the play, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, the character of Fortinbras, has been used as a foil for the main character, Hamlet. Hamlet and Fortinbras have lost their fathers to untimely deaths. Claudius killed Hamlet’s father, King Hamlet, and King Hamlet killed Fortinbras’ father. Both Hamlet and Fortinbras have vowed to seek revenge for the deaths of their fathers. Since the revenge tactics of Hamlet and Fortinbras are completely different, Hamlet perceives the actions of Fortinbras as better than his own and the actions of Fortinbras, then, encourage Hamlet to act without hesitating.

Hamlet, after learning that his father’s death was a murder and vowing to take revenge, wants to be certain that what he has been told is the absolute truth before he attempts to take revenge on Claudius. Even after Hamlet is sure beyond any shadow of a doubt that Claudius is the murderer, he hesitates to kill him. Fortinbras, on the other hand, has been taking action even before the play begins. As the play opens, the audience learns that Denmark is in a state of alert; the country has been preparing for a war. From Horatio, the audience also learns that the young Fortinbras is getting ready his “lawless resolutes”(I.i.111) for action against Denmark for the killing of his father and for the return of lands previously owned by Norway (I. i. 79-107). These differences between Hamlet and Fortinbras’ actions are further mentioned in Hamlet’s last soliloquy (IV. iv. 32-66).

Before the soliloquy begins, Hamlet has been informed by one of Fortinbras’ Captains that Norway is preparing to fight Poland over a “little patch of land”(IV.iv.19) and that twenty thousand men are eager to fight for th…

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…nts itself. Hamlet is so determined to do something he does not wish to think about the consequences anymore.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Bradley, A.C. “Shakespeare’s Tragic Period–Hamlet.” Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth. Toronto: MacMillan, 1967.

Danson, Lawrence. “Tragic Alphabet.” Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York City: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 65-86

Manning, John. “Symbola and Emblemata in Hamlet.” New Essays on Hamlet. Ed. Mark Thornton Burnett and John Manning. New York: AMS Press, 1994. 11-18.

Rose, Mark. “Reforming the Role.” Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York City: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 117-128

Wagner, Valeria. “Losing the Name of Action.” New Essays on Hamlet. New York: AMS Press, 1994. 135-152.

Comparing the Supernatural in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth

Comparing the Supernatural in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth

In the time of William Shakespeare there was a strong belief in the existence of the supernatural. Therefore, the supernatural is a recurring theme in many of Shakespeare’s plays. In two such plays, Hamlet and Macbeth, the supernatural is an integral part of the structure of the plot. It provides a catalyst for action, an insight into character, and an augmentation of the impact of many key scenes.

The supernatural appears to the audience in many varied forms. In Hamlet there appears perhaps the most notable of the supernatural forms, the ghost. However, in Macbeth, not only does a ghost appear, but also a floating dagger, witches, and prophetic apparitions also make appearances. The role of the supernatural is very important in both Hamlet and Macbeth. A ghost, in the form of Hamlet’s father, makes several visitations in the play. It first appears to the watchmen, Marcellus and Bernardo, along with Horatio near the guardsmen’s post. The ghost, though silent causes them a little anxiety, “It harrows me with fear and wonder”(I.i.53). It is not until the appearance of Hamlet that the ghost speaks, and only then after Horatio has expressed his fears about Hamlet following it, “What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord, or to the dreadful summit of the cliff”(I.iv.76-77). The conversation between the ghost and Hamlet serves as a catalyst for Hamlet’s later actions and provides insight into Hamlet’s character.

The information the ghost reveals incites Hamlet to action against a situation with which he was already uncomfortable, and now is even more so. Hamlet is not quick to believe the ghost, “The spirit that I have seen may be …

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…e supernatural provides a catalyst for action by the characters. It supplies insight into the major players and it augments the impact of many key scenes. The supernatural appeals to the audience’s curiosity of the mysterious and thus strengthens their interest.

Works Cited

Curry, Walter. Supernatural in Hamlet and Macbeth. London: Mass Peter Smith, 1968.

Epstein, Norrie, The Friendly Shakepeare, New York, Viking Publishing, 1993.

Magill, Masterplots- Volume 6, New Jersey, Salem Press, 1949.

Schlegel, August Wilhelm. Criticism on Shakespeare s Tragedies . A Course of Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature. London: AMS Press, Inc., 1965.

Shakespeare, William. Tragedy of Macbeth . Ed. Barbara Mowat and Paul Warstine. New York: Washington Press, 1992.

Wills, Gary. Witches

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