In Hamlet,Shakespeare portrays a great example of a literary foil between Fortinbras and Hamlet. Fortinbras, a minor character,who possesses traits that emphasize Hamlet’s distinctive qualities. Fortinbras’ characteristics bring out both the worst and the best out Hamlet throughout the play.
Fortinbras and Hamlet are both the Prince of their countries. They have both lost their fathers’ and wanted to take revenge on it. Fortinbras .The differences between Fortinbras and Hamlet is that Fortinbras acts more quickly in the revenge on his father.
Also, Fortinbras’s plan of revenge didn’t kill the people that are not include, but for Hamlet, his revenge had killed many others lives.They both seek to regain the throne and avenge their father’s deaths. However, they go about reaching their common goals in different manners. Even though they come from a similar background, various differences come into play to show Hamlet’s weakness.
The contrast lies in their motives; Hamlet wishes to kill Claudius for personal revenge while Fortinbras tries to rebuild his father’s kingdom ,lead thousands of men into battle, attempting to capture the worthless piece of land of Poland.This difference shows their inaction and action, while Hamlet is doing this for personal reasons; he is tied down by his personal morals and hesitates to kill Claudius, like the instance in Act 3 Scene 3, Instead of taking advantage of the only moment Hamlet has alone with Claudius, Hamlet overthinks the whole situation and makes up an excuse for himself to not kill Claudius, which was that he believed murdering him now as he is praying would send him to heaven. Fortinbras on the other hand, takes action while Hamlet has no initiative and spends most of his time in a state of “madness”. Hamlet also has the weakness of his father’s murder not being public knowledge. While Hamlet has to create a plan against Claudius efficiently and carefully, Fortinbras is able to lead his army and plan openly. Hamlet struggles with his emotions towards those that are guilty and he admires Fortinbras and his ability to lead and channel his anger in retaking the land he lost and is a man that takes action for what he believes in.
He compares himself to Fortinbras when he encounters Fortinbras’ army and he sees Fortinbras as a role model for how he should behave. “To be great / is not to stir without great argument / but greatly to find quarrel in a straw / when honor’s at the stake” (4.4 56-59).Meaning, Hamlet acknowledges that Fortinbras doesn’t have very good reasons for leading an army against Poland, which is useless land that nobody wants.Hamlet wishes to be like Fortinbras and because of this,we see Hamlet’s flaws through his indecisiveness and inability to act quickly. The foil between Fortinbras and Hamlet presents one of the major themes of the play which is revenge.
Fortinbras wants to avenge the death of his father by creating an army that could overrule Denmark. we learn that Fortinbras is a man that will stop at nothing to get revenge on those who killed his father. His quote gave the reader(s) the first insight of someone seeking revenge in the play. Fortinbras is quick to take action to get what he wants King Fortinbras’ death gave his son determination and motivation to make his father proud.Unlike Fortinbras, Hamlet just weeps over his father’s death. Hamlet continues to talk about his hatred for Claudius and vows revenge for King Hamlet’s murder, but takes no action in it.
In contrast to Hamlet’s indecisiveness, Fortinbras knows what he wants and makes it happen. His personality is opposite to Hamlet’s who over thinks what he wants to do too much, without going through with the plan.In the end, it’s Fortinbras’s strategy that allows him to get what he wants in the end without kill anyone really or having to do anything. Even though most of Fortinbras’ qualities contrast from Hamlet, his qualities encouraged Hamlet to be at his best. Hamlet Idolized Fortinbras and highly respected him.
Shakespeare did a great job of showing the foil between Fortinbras and Hamlet in his style of writing.