Hamlet A Common Allusion: "Brevity is the soul of wit"

William Shakespeare

A Common Allusion: "Brevity is the soul of wit"

Although not the most-used allusion to Shakespeare's Hamlet, it is important to note this fairly common indirect reference to the play.  Again, the irony is that this truism is spoken by the fool, Polonius.  Here we see Polonius speaking to Queen Gertrude and, in the middle of a long, drawn-out speech, Polonius reveals the truth that "brevity is the soul of wit." In other words, the smaller amount of words that one needs to use to say something should signify how smart that person is.  Again, the irony is that Polonius is neither brief nor wise. How can we tell as readers?  Note how Polonius swears to use no "art" and then rambles about Hamlet's apparent madness, "'tis true: 'tis pity, / And pity 'tis 'tis true -- a foolish figure."