Therefore, the character of Laertes has a chief function to the entire play of Hamlet as it is this character, along with some other minor characters such as the ghost, which reveals some of the fundamental features of the character of the protagonist. In other words, Shakespeare offers the reader as well as the audience of the play to have a greater understanding of the major character of Hamlet by illustrating the similarities and differences between him and the minor characters such as Laertes or the ghost. In fact, Laertes, who shares the rashness and spontaneity of Hamlet, provides a greater realization about the protagonist mainly through his similarities and differences. Therefore, it is blatant, in a deep character analysis of the play, that Shakespeare helps the readers to have an enhanced understanding of the protagonist Hamlet and his actions by presenting Laertes as a foil to him.
A profound analysis of the character of Laertes reveals that the chief function of this character is to play a significant role as a major foil to Hamlet in telling the readers much more about the particular character and his decisions than what they apparently realize. It is through the actions of this character and his dialogues with Hamlet that some of the essential elements in the protagonist are revealed. Shakespeare's intention in presenting Laertes as the exact foil to Hamlet is clear even in the opening scenes of the play. Thus, one finds that Laertes is straight away recognized as the favorite of the King as opposed to the Prince. Claudius calls the young man five times by name and gives the consent to go back to his studies in Paris. The scene also reveals how Laertes will play a contradictory role to the protagonist. "Take thy fair hour, Laertes; time be thine, / And thy best graces spend it at thy will! / But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son, --" (Act 1, Scene 2, Hamlet) Therefore, the character of Laertes becomes the favorite of the main antagonist of the play from the opening which has a great significance to the overall plot.
As a foil to Hamlet, Laertes also develops the complexity to actions of Hamlet and the opening scenes of the play show how this character interferes in the way of the protagonist. Thus, in the first Act of the play, Laertes warns her sister Ophelia against Hamlet's romantic pursuit of her, and this also suggests how the character reveals the characteristics in the protagonist. "Fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister, / And keep you in the rear of your affection, / Out of the shot and danger of desire. / The chariest maid is prodigal enough, / If she unmask her beauty to the moon:" (Act 1, Scene 3, Hamlet) In fact, Laertes is cynical about Ophelia's relationship with Hamlet and offers the sister moral advice to keep away from the relation. Thus, the character also sets the stage for the realities about the character of Hamlet and the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia.
In the play Hamlet, Shakespeare deals with several problems and, in fact, every character in the play goes through some kind of problem in the overall