Welcome to Clip from Spiral logo

Interactive video lesson plan for: Though this be madness - Shakespeare Speaks

Activity overview:

Hamlet appears to be going mad… and we look at phrases to say that someone's behaviour is strange or silly. For the transcript click ''SHOW MORE'.

For activities and extra materials connected to this episode: http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/course/shakespeare/unit-1/session-7

Shakespeare Speaks is a co-production between BBC Learning English and The Open University

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.

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.

Good evening Thomas, Robert…

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

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?

Indeed it is, Bess.

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.

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?

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.

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

I know you have, dear Bess.

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.

That's right – exactly.

Robert Harley
This is one crazy plot…

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.

Pick up some useful everyday English phrases and learn about the life, times and language of the world's best-known playwright with our 20-part series: #ShakespeareSpeaks

Tagged under: pronunciation,English ,tutorial,Hamlet,native,shx400,native English speaker,speaking native,method,official,อังกฤษ,maggot,bbc,BBC masterclass,英語,anh,method madness,conversational,british,ELT,mad,Inglê,English,BBC,shakespeare,lesson planning,Speak English,idiom,영어,lesson,animation,الإنجليزية,English lesson,language,english,psychology,English language,cartoon,bbc learning english,vocab,lesson plan,Inglé,masterclass,ShakespeareSpeaks,authentic english,speak

Clip makes it super easy to turn any public video into a formative assessment activity in your classroom.

Add multiple choice quizzes, questions and browse hundreds of approved, video lesson ideas for Clip

Make YouTube one of your teaching aids - Works perfectly with lesson micro-teaching plans

Play this activity

1. Students enter a simple code

2. You play the video

3. The students comment

4. You review and reflect

* Whiteboard required for teacher-paced activities

Share on:

Share Though this be madness - Shakespeare Speaks on Google+ Share Though this be madness - Shakespeare Speaks on Twitter Share Though this be madness - Shakespeare Speaks on Facebook Pin Though this be madness - Shakespeare Speaks Email Though this be madness - Shakespeare Speaks

Ready to see what else Spiral logo can do?

With four apps, each designed around existing classroom activities, Spiral gives you the power to do formative assessment with anything you teach.


Carry out a quickfire formative assessment to see what the whole class is thinking


Create interactive presentations to spark creativity in class

Team Up

Student teams can create and share collaborative presentations from linked devices


Turn any public video into a live chat with questions and quizzes

1000s of teachers use Spiral to deliver awesome, engaging activities that capture students' understanding during lessons.

Now it's your turn Sign up

Spiral Reviews by Teachers and Digital Learning Coaches

Review of Spiral by teacher: Kathryn Laster @kklaster

Tried out the canvas response option on @SpiralEducation & it's so awesome! Add text or drawings AND annotate an image! #R10tech

Review of Spiral by teacher: Room 220 Math Stars @3rdgradeBCE

Using @SpiralEducation in class for math review. Student approved! Thumbs up! Thanks.

Review of Spiral by teacher: Miss Ord @ordmiss

Absolutely amazing collaboration from year 10 today. 100% engagement and constant smiles from all #lovetsla #spiral

Review of Spiral by teacher: Adam J. Stryker @strykerstennis

Students show better Interpersonal Writing skills than Speaking via @SpiralEducation Great #data #langchat folks!

Review of Spiral by teacher: Dr Ayla Göl @iladylayla

A good tool for supporting active #learning.

Review of Spiral by teacher: Brett Erenberg @BrettErenberg

The Team Up app is unlike anything I have ever seen. You left NOTHING out! So impressed!

Get the Clip Chrome Extension & Create Video Lessons in Seconds

Add Clip to Chrome