The Incompetent Antagonism of Wit: A Study of Hamlet and Catch-22

Author: P. A. Shifana, St Thomas College, Kozhencherry, Kerala, India
Published: July 29, 2022

Citation: Shifana, P. A. (2022). The Incompetent Antagonism of Wit: A Study of Hamlet and Catch-22. IAFOR Journal of Arts & Humanities, 9(1).


Unique among other rhetorical devices, wit can appear complex and banal simultaneously. The clever language can express thought equal to the weight of lengthy discourse in a few words, often with amusing effect. However, despite the complexity of the device, wit only offers a momentary chuckle or clarification of events, easily forgotten in a larger context. This dichotomy of wit operates the plot and theme in many literary texts. Intelligent protagonists employ the device to remedy their problems, believing that the complexity of the response ensures its effectiveness. However, because wit consists of only words, the device falls short of enacting change that action or direct discourse could more appropriately handle. This paper examines the role of wit in Hamlet and Catch-22 to determine how characters rely on wit to affront their problems but succeed only in amplifying them.


Catch-22, comic, Hamlet, humour, narrative, wit