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Laertes and Fortinbras as Foils for Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Laertes and Fortinbras as Foils for Hamlet

Hamlet, the major character in the Shakespeare play of the same name, was faced with a decision upon learning that Claudius murdered his father. Should he believe the ghost, and avenge his father’s murder? Or is the ghost evil, trying to coerce him into killing Claudius? Throughout the play, we see Hamlet’s struggle with this issue. Many opportunities arise for him to kill Claudius, but he is unable to act because he cannot convince himself to believe the Ghost. Shakespeare uses Laertes and Fortinbras as foils to Hamlet, in order to help us understand why Hamlet acts the way he does.

Foils are used in plays so that the readers are better able to understand the major character (Hamlet). In a foil, the minor character is similar in many ways to the main character so that we will compare the two. However, it is through these similarities that we are able to see the more important differences between the two.

The major foil for Hamlet is Laertes, the son of Polonius. The most obvious similarity is that they are both young men. They also come from relatively similar backgrounds, a Danish aristocratic upbringing. They also both have some college education. This leads us to another similarity; [Semicolons vs. colons] they both have the ability to use logical and rational reasoning. However, they do differ on their applications of logical reasoning.

We see this logical and rational reasoning in Hamlet, in Acts 1

Xuela’s Character in Jamaica Kincaid’s Autobiography of My Mother

Many critics of The Autobiography of my Mother have remarked on the unrealistic facets of Xuela’s extremist character. Her lack of remorse, her emotional detachment, her love of the dirty and “impure,” and her consuming need for total control over everyone and everything around her give her an almost mythic quality. A more well-rounded, humanistic character would have doubts and failings that Xuela does not seem to possess. In light of Xuela’s deep-seated resentment of authority, stubborn love of the degraded and unacceptable, intense rejection of the ìmaster-slaveî relationship, and–most pointedly–her hatred of the British and British culture, many critics have embraced the idea that Xuela is highly symbolic of the conquered, colonized races whose blood makes up her own.

There are many complex parallels between Xuela’s character and the collective psyche and cultural beliefs of Dominica’s “conquered” races. Yet, instead of sinking in despair, Xuela refuses to gracefully accept her lot in life. Early on, she rejects the imposed cultural perception of herself as inferior. Her description of her elementary schoolteacher is prescient: “a woman of the African people, that I could see, and she found in this a source of humiliation and self-loathing, and she wore despair like an article of clothing, like a mantle, or a staff on which she leaned constantly, a birthright which she would pass on to us” (15). Xuela then explains the distinction between Africans and Caribs in her Dominica. “My mother was a Carib woman, and when they (the class) looked at me this is what they saw. The Carib people had been defeated and then exterminated, thrown away like the weeds in a garden; the African people had been defeated but had survived. When…

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…den. She understands it, although she does not share it. Xuela also possesses a deeply rooted need for control over her personal realm, possibly brought on by her hatred of the control exerted by the British over Dominica, as well as by her unhappy childhood.

Above all, Xuela makes it her project in life to love herself, and, as one reviewer remarks, “she does so with a remarkable dedication” (Mead 52). Her own body becomes a temple to her, a place in which to feel safe and loved. Xuela says that she loves herself out of necessity, for the world she lives in is cruel and has little love to give her.

Xuela’s character is hard to take, from any standpoint. She is almost inhumanly resilient, and her hatred of all that is Western and white is all-consuming. For these reasons Xuela is sometimes seen as an abstraction, a symbol of an entire people’s suffering.

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