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课程 7

Maggoty dogs and crabs walking backwards teach us about the phrase though this be madness, yet there is method in't from William Shakespeare's Hamlet - and we bring you lots more useful expressions for talking about strange behaviour!

 

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练习题 1

Though this be madness, yet there is method in't!

Maggots in dogs and crabs walking backwards 

William Shakespeare's greatest play, Hamlet, brings us revenge, tragedy, death - and madness. Playing the leading character, Hamlet, is a great honour for any actor - but it's also a great challenge. 

To do

Actors Thomas Swann and Robert Harley are discussing Shakespeare's character Hamlet. Is he really mad? Watch the video to find out. (The answer's under the video – no looking!).

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Narrator
It was late in the evening. Actors Thomas Swann and Robert Harley are having a drink in the Duck and Whistle after a rehearsal of William Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Barmaid
Here you are Mr Robert, Mr Thomas: two more ales.

Thomas Swann
Now Robert, the big question in Hamlet for me is – oh, hello, Will.

Will
Good evening Thomas, Robert…

Thomas Swann
Will. About your character Hamlet. Is he really mad?

Barmaid
Good evening Mr Will – oohh, he's a tricky fellow that Hamlet. The way I see it, Mr Thomas, is, he's not really mad. He wants to find out who killed his father, and he thinks if he pretends to be mad, the killer will stop hiding the truth from him. Isn't that right Mr Will?

Will
Indeed it is, Bess.

Barmaid
Hamlet says all sorts of crazy things about maggots in dogs and crabs walking backwards… no wonder everyone thinks he's mad. I'm a big fan of yours, Mr Will.

Will
Thank you, Bess.

Robert Harley
But if Polonius thinks Hamlet is mad, why does he say: Though this be madness, yet there is method in't?

Barmaid
Well I think, Mr Robert, that's partly because some of the crazy things that Hamlet says actually make sense. That's why Polonius thinks Hamlet is somehow in control of his madness, because Hamlet says: For yourself, sir, should be as old as I am…

Robert Harley as Hamlet
For yourself, sir, should be as old as I am, if like a crab you could go backward.

Thomas Swann as Polonius
Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.

Barmaid
That Polonius is an old fool – he doesn’t know Hamlet’s insulting him. I've seen all your plays, Mr Will.

Will
I know you have, dear Bess.

Narrator
We'll leave them there for now. The name Hamlet is very similar to Hamnet, Shakespeare's son, who died at just 11 years old. It's possible that Shakespeare's grief influenced the outpouring of hopelessness and grief in Hamlet's speeches that follow the death of his father, the King. The modern version of the phrase Though this be madness, yet there is method in't is simply: there's method in his madness – or her madness, or my madness – and it means: there's a sensible reason for something that seems crazy. Take snooker champion Ronnie O'Sullivan, talking about how his father introduced him to snooker. He said:

Clip 1
My dad's method in his madness was to try every sport and then observe what I liked. I played football, tennis, golf, cricket – but I loved my snooker.

Clip 2
My mum's desk is covered in papers. There's method in her madness, though. She knows where everything is!

Thomas Swann
So Hamlet isn't mad – he's just pretending.

Shakespeare
That's right – exactly.

Robert Harley
This is one crazy plot…

Barmaid
Mr Will knows what he's doing, believe me.

Robert Harley
Hmm… To be-lieve or not to be-lieve:

Thomas Swann
…that is the question.

Answer
Bess the barmaid explains that Hamlet isn't really mad - he's only pretending! Find out more by doing the quiz below.

To do

Can you answer these questions to show that you are as perceptive as Bess? Watch the episode again to help you if you like.

To believe, or not to believe...

5 Questions

Are you as clever as Bess? Take the test to find out...

祝贺你完成了测验!
Excellent! 太棒了! Bad luck! 加分:
x / y

How many did you get right?
3-5 - Have a pint of ale!
0-2 - Maggoty dog!

Next

You'd be mad to leave us now! Go to the next page to learn how to use there's method in his madness - and to learn some more expressions for when your friends are acting crazy!

本课词汇

  • For more great Shakespeare content visit our partner,The OU

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    Though this be madness, yet there is method in't

    Meaning
    The modern version of the phrase is: there's method in his madness – or her madness, or my madness – and it means: there's a sensible reason for something that seems crazy.

    Example sentence
    My mum's desk is covered in papers. There's method in her madness, though. She knows where everything is!

    Notes
    We can also say there's method to his madness.

    Mad means crazy, silly or stupid in British English. 

    In American English, mad means angry or upset.

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    Extra vocabulary

    rehearsal
    a practice of a play for later public performance

    tragedy
    a terrible situation, often involving suffering or death

    revenge
    harm that you do to someone because they have harmed you

    Informal ways to say that someone's idea or behaviour is really strange or outrageous:

    • You're out of your mind!
    • You're absolutely bonkers!
    • You're off your rocker!
    • You're nuts!
    • You're losing it!
    • You're losing the plot!
    • You're losing your marbles!

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    About Shakespeare Speaks

    Shakespeare Speaks is a co-production between:

    BBC Learning English

    The Open University

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    More Shakespeare Speaks episodes

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