In Act II, Scene 2 of Hamlet, Polonius says, "Since brevity is the soul of wit... I will be brief." How is this line ironic?
If something can be said in one sentence, Polonius will say it in a paragraph; if something can be spoken in 30 seconds, Polonius will speak it in 5 minutes. The fact that he says "brevity is the soul of wit" is an ironic self-indictment--he's not brief, so he lacks wit. And did I say he's not brief?!
In this scene, particularly, we are struck by Polonius' artfulness in prolonging the simplest thing. He reminds the King and Queen that he's always been truthful, says he's always had their best interests at heart, tells them he knows something they don't, pauses for the messenger to deliver his message...and starts all over again. THEN he finally reveals his theory.
In adition to his "brevity" line, Polonius uses all these statements to tell the royal couple he's getting to the point: "I will be brief," "I will use no art," "I swear I use no art at all," "I will use no art," ""stay awhile, I will be faithful." In addition, he digresses into an I've-been-faithful-to-you-haven't-I speech as well as patting his own back that he had the foresight and wisdom to keep his daughter away from Hamlet. (In reality, of course, he was trying to protect his own reputation, not keep his daughter from potential heartache.)
Polonius is long-winded and rather foolish--which is what gets him killed, in the end. The King and Queen think he's long-winded, as does Laertes, his son, who rues the fact (in Act 2 scene 1) that he didn't make a speedier getaway and would now have to listen to another of his father's lengthy diatribes on life--before being scolded for being late to leave.
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