‘Method to His Madness’: Definition, Meaning and Examples

By Sophia Merton, updated on April 12, 2023

Did someone describe a person as having a 'method to his madness,' and you’re wondering what it means? In this article, we’ll take a look at the meaning, definition, origin, examples, and more.

  • When a person uses the phrase 'method to his madness,' they are saying that, though a person's actions and behavior might seem chaotic and illogical, there is actually a system and rational reason for how they are approaching the issue at hand.

What Does 'Method to His Madness' Mean?

If someone says that there is a ‘method to his madness,’ they are saying that there is a well-thought-out reason for the man’s behavior which otherwise seems illogical.

In this phrase, the possessive pronoun can be changed to fit the context o the sentence.

For example, you could say:

  • ‘method to your madness’
  • ‘method to my madness’ 
  • method to their madness’
  • Another common form is ‘method to the madness.’

If someone says to you, “don’t worry, there’s a method to my madness’!” they are implying that you should trust them until the outcome becomes more apparent.

Where Does 'Method to His Madness' Come From?

It’s thought that the phrase ‘method to the madness’ and its various iterations are derived from the famous Shakespeare play Hamlet.

First performed in 1602, the character Lord Polonius speaks the following line in the play:

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.”

Historical Usage of 'Method to the Madness'

Using the Google Books Ngram Viewer, we see that 'method to his madness' has been used in publications throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, though usage really picked up around 1960.

We find the phrase ‘method to the madness’ used in the publication The Rebellion: Its Latent Causes and True Significance from 1861 by Henry T. Tuckerman:

“And if it is objected that beneath these apparent absurdities lay, dark and portentous, the question of slavery, and that apprehension of an intended violent interference therwith, sanctioned by the new administration (however impracticalbe by the terms of the constitution), was the latent and overmastering inducement; then must we deny method to the madness whereof the most gifted woman of the age, whose tenderness and wisdom are hallowed by her fresh grave, thus wrote…”

In an 1887 volume of The Red Dragon: National Magazine of Wales, we find another example of this phrase in use in the nineteenth century:

Something of this wild spirit appears to have communicated itself to the more restless elements in Wales. Unhappily the existence of tangible grievances enabled the vague feeling of unrest to crystallize into well-defined forms– gave method to the madness. The success which met the initial efforts at beating down vexatious imposts emboldened repetition on an increasing scale until the whole country was aroused.”

Historical Usage of 'Method to His Madness'

‘Method to his madness’ rather than ‘method to the madness’ is found in the 1842 publication Conjectures and Researches Concerning the Love, Madness, and Imprisonment of Torquato Tasso by Richard Henry Wilde:

“Nor should these new errors of mine, since my last flight from Ferrara, be imputed to me, because he who wishes another to be mad ought not to complain if, from desperation at not being able to do what is impossible, and from confusion of mind, and the agitation of a thousand hopes and a thousand fears, he cannot put bound or method to his madness.”

For one more example, we find ‘method to his madness’ in Peterson’s Magazine, Volumes 75-76 from 1879:

“But in this apparently useless demonstration, Trecothick suddenly came upon a discovery so momentous, that it had the effect of calming his fury, and restoring method to his madness. The largest finger of his right hand caught in a cavity, whose edge gave way beneath the pressure, so that a large morsel of stone was loosened, and fell trinkling to the earth.”

Examples of 'Method to His Madness' In Sentences

How would 'method to his madness' be used in a sentence?

Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • “I can tell my co-workers are skeptical, but I just keep telling them there is a method to my madness.”
  • “Every time he cooks dinner, the kitchen becomes a complete disaster area. He swears there is a method to his madness, but all I see is a big mess to clean up.”
  • “I have learned that there really is a method to his madness. It might seem like he has no idea what he’s doing, but in the end, he always comes out on top.”
  • “I’m used to working with my old boss, who understood that there is a method to my madness. The new boss is constantly micromanaging the way I work, and it’s driving me crazy.”
  • “When you look at the bus schedule, it definitely doesn’t appear that there’s any method to the madness. In reality, though, it actually is the most efficient way for the busses to run their routes because of the unique traffic patterns in the city.”

Final Thoughts About 'Method to His Madness'

'Method to his madness' and 'method to the madness' are idiomatic phrases that can be used to describe a scenario that appears chaotic and irrational but that is actually well-thought-out and systematic.

  • If someone tells you that they have a 'method to their madness,' they are asking you to trust the way they are acting until you see the outcome.

Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Be sure to check out our idioms blog for idioms, expressions, sayings, and more!

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia Merton is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is passionate about reading, writing, and the written word. Her goal is to help everyone, whether native English speaker or not, learn how to write and speak with perfect English.

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