When studying literature, one often assumes the expected. They view the most common characters as the main characters, having the most significant presence in the work; however, a talented author demonstrating permutation may work to reverse some of these expectations. (1) They may only show a particular character several times or maybe even not at all but still put huge importance on the character’s presence. This minor but significant figure could affect action, theme, or development of the other characters. Much of this technique can be seen in Shakespeare’s Hamlet through the character of Fortinbras. With limited appearances, Fortinbras is shown as a foil to Hamlet in his quest for revenge, view on death, and opinion on what is honorable in a man. These reoccurring ideas and binary oppositions work to strengthen the theme that there is a happy median between thinking too much on a topic and thinking too little that must be obeyed to ensure success. In hopes of avenging his father’s death, Fortinbras is always quick to act. The reader is first introduced to this character in act 1 when Claudius announces that he has received a letter from young Fortinbras demanding the land back that King Hamlet won from his father. From this, the reader can conclude a lot about Fortinbras. Not even possessing the diadem, Fortinbras is ready to wage war with his nation’s strong army for the sake of the death of his father. This shows his character as strong, determined, and highlights his quick acting pernicious behavior. These traits continue into act 2 when the reader is reintroduced
to Fortinbras. After negotiating with his Uncle who is King, he agrees to only attack Poland, and asks King Claudius for safe passage through Denmark to do so. This continues to show that he will do anything and is looking for any action to act upon his father’s death and is searching for a reclaim of honor. Hamlet, as a foil to young Fortinbras...