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What is a foil? Ex. Bob is used as a foil to Tina.


I still don't understand :(

Think of "foil" as if it's aluminum foil. You can see your image in it if you look at the shiny side, right?

If you hold up a "foil" in literature, it's as if you're holding up a mirror to a character -- there are enough similarities to make the relationship obvious. HOWEVER the other character reacts to events in the story differently, showing you what the main character could be like.

Laertes is a foil for Hamlet.
Fortinbras is a foil for Hamlet.

What story/book/play are you reading, and what characters are you working with?


I am reading Julius Caesar, and the question is Ligarius is being used as a foil to Brutus. What characterisitcs are brought out.

I'll tell you about Hamlet and Laertes, and maybe this'll help you with Julius Caesar characters. (I haven't read JC in about 50 years, so I'd have to refer to Sparknotes!)

young man, university student
loves his father
returns home because of his father's death
father's ghost tells him to avenge his death because it was actually murder
Hamlet hems and haws and wastes time, doesn't take action right away

young man, university student
loves his father
returns home after his father's death
is immediately angry and can't wait to avenge his father's murder
is easily led into Claudius's plot to kill Hamlet

You can see that there are some traits they have in common, but after the pivotal event takes place (the death of each one's father), they react very differently. Both the similarities and the differences make Laertes a foil for Hamlet.

See also:
"FOIL: A character that serves by contrast to highlight or emphasize opposing traits in another character. For instance, in the film Chasing Amy, the character Silent Bob is a foil for his partner, Jake, who is loquacious and foul-mouthed. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Laertes the unthinking man of action is a foil to the intelligent but reluctant Hamlet. The angry hothead Hotspur in Henry IV, Part I, is the foil to the cool and calculating Prince Hal."


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