That Way Madness Lies Examples
The phrase "that way madness lies" originated with William Shakespeare's King Lear. In the tragedy, King Lear decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters, but first they must tell him how much they love him. The oldest two do, but the youngest, Cordelia, only says that she cannot express her love for her father with words. Lear gives his kingdom to the other two, who then betray him. Realizing his mistake, King Lear is slowly driven mad. He ends up wandering outside during a thunderstorm after leaving his daughters' house.
These are the lines that King Lear speaks to a friend while wandering outside in the storm:
Thou think'st 'tis much that this contentious storm
Invades us to the skin: so 'tis to thee;
But where the greater malady is fix'd,
The lesser is scarce felt. Thou'ldst shun a bear;
But if thy flight lay toward the raging sea,
Thou'ldst meet the bear i' the mouth. When the
The body's delicate: the tempest in my mind
Doth from my senses take all feeling else
Save what beats there. Filial ingratitude!
Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand
For lifting food to't? But I will punish home:
No, I will weep no more. In such a night
To shut me out! Pour on; I will endure.
In such a night as this! O Regan, Goneril!
Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all,--
O, that way madness lies; let me shun that;
No more of that.
In this speech, Lear says that the storm is not what is worst-that the "greater malady" is in his mind. He references the "ingratitude" of his daughters, who through their betrayal have bitten the hand that fed them: "Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand / For lifting food to't?" He laments that his daughters have shut him out on such a night: "O Regan, Goneril! / Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all"
It is in the midst of the lament that Lear suddenly changes gears: "O, that way madness lies; let me shun that; no more of that." If he dwells too long on the betrayal of his daughters, he will only go mad, or insane.
The phrase "that way madness lies" is sometimes used today to express the same sentiment that Lear was expressing over the betrayal of his daughters. If we dwell too long on a problem, a worry, a wrong from a friend, etc.; we could drive ourselves insane with the thought.
Literary Terms Examples