What does this mean? [Quote about madness]

To define true madness, what is’t but to be nothing else but mad?
(9 Chickweed Lane - 9/19/01)

My only thoughts are “Crazy is as crazy does.” (Whatever that means…) :confused:

It’s a quote from Polonius in Hamlet. Googling will give you all sorts of interpretations of it in context.

Thanks, Gus! I’ll do that. :slight_smile:

Here’s the strip.

The line is from Hamlet, and is spoken by Polonius as he explains Hamlet’s behavior (unrequieted love for Ophelia.)

85 This business is well ended.
86 My liege, and madam, to expostulate
87 What majesty should be, what duty is,
88 Why day is day, night night, and time is time,
89 Were nothing but to waste night, day and time.
90 Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
91 And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
92 I will be brief. Your noble son is mad.
93 Mad call I it; for, to define true madness,
94 What is’t but to be nothing else but mad?
95 But let that go.


95 More matter, with less art.


96 Madam, I swear I use no art at all.
97 That he is mad, 'tis true: 'tis true 'tis pity;
98 And pity 'tis 'tis true: a foolish figure;
99 But farewell it, for I will use no art.
100 Mad let us grant him, then: and now remains
101 That we find out the cause of this effect,
102 Or rather say, the cause of this defect,
103 For this effect defective comes by cause:
104 Thus it remains, and the remainder thus.
105 Perpend.
106 I have a daughter—have while she is mine—
107 Who, in her duty and obedience, mark,
108 Hath given me this. Now gather, and surmise. *

You guys are incredible! 13 words and you somehow tie them to Willy the Shake!
Thanks again all. :slight_smile:

Polonius is a blabbering fool who can’t express himself. Basically, he is trying to tell the Queen her son is nuts. But he can’t just say, “You’re son is nuts.”

So instead he goes in some blabbering fit when he is trying to say “Trying to define why madness is called madness is a waste of time. Just understand your son is mad. Yes, I say he is mad, for how else can one define his behavior? It makes no sense, so he must be insane. Accept it and let us figure out how to deal with it.”

“Nothing else but mad”= 100% mad
“for, to define true madness” = I shall define T.M. as thus:

So your quote parses better as:

I shall define true madness: It is being 100% mad. What else is there to it?

Dropping any quote into Google is the fastest way to get started on an answer.

I understand the quote as “What do you call someone whose every action is crazy ? A crazy person, what else ?”. IOW, the duck principle as applied to looney Danes.

Edited thread title to indicate subject.

General Questions Moderator