Feigned madness
Feigned madness a term used in popular culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

 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.

To avoid responsibility

  • Vincent Gigante
    Vincent Gigante
    Vincent Gigante was a short lived professional light heavyweight boxer who was known as "The Chin" Gigante. He fought 25 matches and lost four, boxing 121 rounds. On February 19, 1945, he fought Pete Petrello in Madison Square Garden and won by a knock out in the second round. During his successful...

    , American Mafia
    The Mafia is a criminal syndicate that emerged in the mid-nineteenth century in Sicily, Italy. It is a loose association of criminal groups that share a common organizational structure and code of conduct, and whose common enterprise is protection racketeering...

    Crime boss
    A crime boss or boss is a person in charge of a criminal organization. A boss typically has absolute or near-absolute control over his subordinates, is greatly feared by his subordinates for his ruthlessness and willingness to take lives in order to exert his influence, and profits come from the...

    , seen wandering the streets of Greenwich Village
    Greenwich Village
    Greenwich Village, , , , .in New York often simply called "the Village", is a largely residential neighborhood on the west side of Lower Manhattan in New York City. A large majority of the district is home to upper middle class families...

    , Manhattan
    Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

     in his bathrobe and slippers, mumbling incoherently to himself, in what he later admitted was an elaborate act.
  • Allegedly, Shūmei Ōkawa, Japanese nationalist
    Japanese nationalism
    encompasses a broad range of ideas and sentiments harbored by the Japanese people over the last two centuries regarding their native country, its cultural nature, political form and historical destiny...

    , on trial for war crime
    War crime
    War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

    s after World War II
    World War II
    World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


To examine the system from the inside

Investigative journalists and psychologists have feigned madness to study psychiatric hospital
Psychiatric hospital
Psychiatric hospitals, also known as mental hospitals, are hospitals specializing in the treatment of serious mental disorders. Psychiatric hospitals vary widely in their size and grading. Some hospitals may specialise only in short-term or outpatient therapy for low-risk patients...

s from within:
  • American muckraker
    The term muckraker is closely associated with reform-oriented journalists who wrote largely for popular magazines, continued a tradition of investigative journalism reporting, and emerged in the United States after 1900 and continued to be influential until World War I, when through a combination...

     Nellie Bly
    Nellie Bly
    Nellie Bly was the pen name of American pioneer female journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochran. She remains notable for two feats: a record-breaking trip around the world in emulation of Jules Verne's character Phileas Fogg, and an exposé in which she faked insanity to study a mental institution from...

    ; see Ten Days in a Mad-House
    Ten Days in a Mad-House
    Ten Days in a Mad-House is a book written by newspaper reporter Nellie Bly and published by Ian L. Munro in New York City in 1887. The book comprised Bly's reportage for the New York World while on an undercover assignment in which she feigned insanity to investigate reports of brutality and...

  • The Rosenhan experiment
    Rosenhan experiment
    The Rosenhan experiment was a famous experiment into the validity of psychiatric diagnosis conducted by psychologist David Rosenhan in 1973. It was published in the journal Science under the title "On being sane in insane places." The study is considered an important and influential criticism of...

     in the 1970s also provides a comparison of life inside several mental hospitals.
  • The Swedish artist Anna Odell created the projec Okänd, kvinna 2009-349701 to examine power structures in healthcare, the society's view of mental illness and the victim hood pushed on the patient.

Historical examples

  • Lucius Junius Brutus
    Lucius Junius Brutus
    Lucius Junius Brutus was the founder of the Roman Republic and traditionally one of the first consuls in 509 BC. He was claimed as an ancestor of the Roman gens Junia, including Marcus Junius Brutus, the most famous of Caesar's assassins.- Background :...

    , 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
    Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah
    Abu ‘Ali Mansur Tāriqu l-Ḥākim, called Al-Hakim bi Amr al-Lāh , was the sixth Fatimid caliph and 16th Ismaili imam .- History :...

    , to regulate the flooding of the Nile
    Flooding of the Nile
    has been an important natal cycle in Egypt since ancient times. It is celebrated by Egyptians as an annual holiday for two weeks starting August 15, known as Wafaa El-Nil. It is also celebrated in the Coptic Church by ceremonially throwing a martyr's relic into the river, hence the name, Esba`...

    ; he later perceived the inanity of what he was attempting to do and, fearing for his life, feigned madness to avoid the Caliph
    The Caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. It is a transcribed version of the Arabic word   which means "successor" or "representative"...

    's wrath, after which he was placed under house arrest
    House arrest
    In justice and law, house arrest is a measure by which a person is confined by the authorities to his or her residence. Travel is usually restricted, if allowed at all...

     until the Caliph's death.

In fiction and mythology

  • Shakespeare's Hamlet
    The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

    , who feigns madness in order to speak freely and gain revenge,— possibly based on a real person; see Hamlet (legend)
    Hamlet (legend)
    Hamlet is a figure in Scandinavian romance and the hero of Shakespeare's tragedy, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.The chief authority for the legend of Hamlet is Saxo Grammaticus, who devotes to it parts of the third and fourth books of his Gesta Danorum, completed at the beginning of the 13th century...

  • Odysseus
    Odysseus or Ulysses was a legendary Greek king of Ithaca and the hero of Homer's epic poem the Odyssey. Odysseus also plays a key role in Homer's Iliad and other works in the Epic Cycle....

     feigned madness by yoking a horse and an ox to his plow and sowing salt or plowing the beach.
  • King David, in 1 Samuel 21, feigns insanity to prevent the servants of Achis the king of Geth from recognizing him.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (novel)
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a novel written by Ken Kesey. Set in an Oregon asylum, the narrative serves as a study of the institutional process and the human mind, as well as a critique of Behaviorism and a celebration of humanistic principles. Written in 1959, the novel was adapted into a...

    , Randle McMurphy
    Randle McMurphy
    Randle Patrick McMurphy or R. P. McMurphy is a central character in Ken Kesey's novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. He appears in the play and film adaptation of the novel as well...

    feigns insanity in order to serve out his criminal sentence in a mental hospital rather than a prison.
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