Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Brevity Is The Soul Of Wit

Posted by Elyse Bruce on July 9, 2010

We all know that jokes and funny stories seem so much funnier when they don’t drag on and on before getting to the punch line.  Even Shakespeare knew that!

In his play, Hamlet, you’ll find the expression, “brevity is the soul of wit.”  Polonius speaks the well-known line but the fact of the matter is that Polonius is one of the least brief and least witty talkers around. 

POLONIUS:
This business is well ended.
My liege, and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
Why day is day, night night, and time is time,
Were nothing but to waste night, day and time.
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief: your noble son is mad:
Mad call I it; for, to define true madness,
What is’t but to be nothing else but mad?
But let that go.

 Throughout the play, Polonius doles out quite a bit of advice to anyone who crosses his path.  What makes this all the funnier while being tragic at the same time is that he doesn’t follow any of his own advice.

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