One definition of a “foil” is: A thin layer of
polished metal placed under a displayed gem to lend it brilliance. It is,
in fact, this definition that applies to “foils” in literature. In
literature, a “foil” is a minor character (or minor characters) who is very
similar to a main character, but differs in important ways in order to show
off the traits and function of the main character. For example, in
Hamlet, there were two foils for Prince Hamlet. They were Fortinbras
and Laertes. All three characters were young, privileged men whose fathers
had recently died through some sort of foul play. All three characters seek
revenge, however, while Fortinbras and Laertes, for example, took action
almost immediately, Hamlet stalled and stalled and stalled (and stalled some
more). The impulsiveness of Fortinbras and Laertes is meant to highlight
Hamlet’s indecision and thoughfulness.
The Taming of the Shrew uses foils as well.
Here are some to consider once you’ve completed your character bookmarks: