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.
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:
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.
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.”
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.”
‘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.”
How would 'method to his madness' be used in a sentence?
Let’s take a look at some examples:
'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.
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!
Add new comment