brevity is the soul of wit


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What does it mean --- This is the Shakespeare quote

thank for your help
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  • syl07 said:
    What does it mean --- This is the Shakespeare quote

    thank for your help

    Welcome to the forums! :)

    Brevity: the quality of being brief (concise)
    soul: essence
    wit: "intelligent" humor

    He's probably saying that the wittiest are those who are the most concise. However, it's hard to give a final answer without more context.
    Thank you very much for your quick response... My daughter has to put this quote for her homework in simple words.... Can you help me again... I am french, so it is difficult for me to help her... thanks again sylvie
    Short jokes are best.:D

    This quotation is often used to encourage writers and speakers to be clear in stating their message, to avoid long words where possible, and to say only what needs to be said.

    I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter.
    Blaise Pascal

    Edit: Obviously I type too slowly. Fortunately Elroy and I are consistent:)
    Thank you very very much . Is is very helpful and we now understand the meaning. Have a great day sylvie
    syl07 said:
    What does it mean --- This is the Shakespeare quote.

    The following is not real useful for simple understanding, for a language learner, of what the words mean. By asking what the quote means, syl07 has invited me to parse the difference, and more than likely, for weal or woe, with little brevity.

    Every one of you gave the meaning of the Poloniusquote.

    The "meaning" of a Shakespeare quote lies in the context, often one of ironic tension, between the face-value message of the line delivered-- and the nature of the character delivering it.

    The other famous Polonius quote, "this above all, to thine own self be true," is being made by a notorious liar by profession-- in fact the statement itself (thou canst not then be false to any man) turns out to be untrue.

    The irony of this, not the dictionary definition of the words, is what Shakespear is getting at, sharing with us and presumably enjoying himself, when he puts such words in Polonius's mouth.

    And what does "brevity is the soul of wit" really mean? It is a setup line whose punchline is Polonius himself-- the most notorious windbag in all of literature.

    Here's the context (public domain material, but I'll abbreviate it some):

    This business is well ended.
    My liege, and madam, to expostulate
    What majesty should be, what duty is,
    Why day is day, night is 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.

    More matter, with less art.

    Madam, I swear I use no art at all.
    That he is mad, 'tis true: 'tis true 'tis pity;
    And pity 'tis 'tis true. A foolish figure!
    But farewell it, for I will use no art.
    Mad let us grant him then. And now remains
    That we find out the cause of this effect-
    Or rather say, the cause of this defect,
    For this effect defective comes by cause.
    Thus it remains, and the remainder thus.

    Well, he's just getting warmed up-- but you get the idea.

    If Cicero had been given more than a half dozen lines in Julius Caesar, I idly speculate that we'd have an aphorism or two of "Shakespearean wisdom" to quote, on the subject of being scrupulous.
    Thanks FFB,

    I may have shared this in the forums before, but after reading your post, I thought of it, fondly, again.

    At a retirement party in the company I used to work for, a fine Cuban friend began his speech:

    "I shall be matter how long it takes me."
    I have always interpreted the meaning as: A smart man knows when to shut his mouth (be quiet).

    Just my two cents.