Comparative Literature

Although deference, self-righteousness, rashness, and self-delusion do not help the other characters in Hamlet to understand the truth or survive, Hamlet's perpetual reflection prevents him from taking action. Hamlet seems to grasp the failings of the other characters' and the inevitability of death, but cannot blindly accept anything to be the basis of truth. He is not sure whether a ghost's word should be the basis of murder: "Faced with evidence that his uncle murdered his father, evidence that any other character in a play would believe, Hamlet becomes obsessed with proving his uncle's guilt before trying to act," (Phillips). Hamlet even contemplates suicide, but ultimately decides that the terrors of this world are generally willingly preferred to the terrors of a world unknown. Still, his madness spurs him to impulsive action. He kills Polonius without knowing who is behind the tapestry, and he torments Ophelia without any clear intent. This suggests a man who truly believes in nothing, not even rational contemplation as a basis for truth. He tries being erratic and impetuous, but this yields no better results than his brooding melancholy. Centrally, he cannot submit himself to any belief that might indicate to him how to act and this is what allows Claudius and Laertes to kill him.
The naggingdifficulty is that there is very little in a human being's life can be certain; yet, we are still forced to act and make crucial decisions based upon our imperfect knowledge. Hamlet struggles with this problem directly by questioning everything that others may accept on faith or on a whim. This is Hamlet's fatal flaw: he is frozen by contemplation. Taken together, every character in Hamlet exhibits a particular fatal flaw; but Hamlet himself seems to stand alone in the midst of the other characters' actions. In other words, despite the fact that he takes part in the most significant actions o…


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