Feigned madness  

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"When Tarquin the Proud caused one of his nephews to be murdered in the hope of securing the succession for his own son, the other nephew feigned insanity; and it was upon him, in accordance with matriarchal law, that the duty of blood-revenge evolved, when his niece Lucretia was assaulted. As in all patriarchal society, the distinction between paternal and maternal uncles was clearly drawn, the former being called ‘patruus’, the latter ‘avunculus’, a diminutive of avus ; that is, ancestor. Thus our word ‘uncle’, a corruption of avunculus, preserves a trace of the matriarchal order of succession." --The Mothers (1927) by Robert Briffault

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Feigned madness a term used in popular culture to describe the assumption of a mental disorder for purposes of evasion or deceit, or to divert suspicion, perhaps in advance of an act of revenge.


Modern examples

To avoid responsibility

To examine the system from the inside

Investigative journalists and psychologists have feigned madness to study psychiatric hospitals from within:

Historical examples

  • Lucius Junius Brutus, who feigned madness until the time when he was able to drive the people to insurrection— he more faked stupidity than insanity, causing the Tarquins to underestimate him as a threat.
  • Alhazen, who was ordered by the sixth Fatimid Caliph, al-Hakim, to regulate the flooding of the Nile; he later perceived the inanity of what he was attempting to do and, fearing for his life, feigned madness to avoid the Caliph's wrath, after which he was placed under house arrest until the Caliph's death.

In fiction and mythology

  • King David, in 1 Samuel 21, feigns insanity to prevent the servants of Achis the king of Geth from recognizing him.
  • Shakespeare's Hamlet, who feigns madness in order to speak freely and gain revenge,— possibly based on a real person; see Hamlet (legend),
  • Odysseus feigned madness by yoking a horse and an ox to his plow and sowing salt or plowing the beach.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Randle McMurphy feigns insanity in order to serve out his criminal sentence in a mental hospital rather than a prison.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Feigned madness" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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