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Page:Notes and Queries - Series 9 - Volume 11.djvu/512

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about endowments, &c., would, if ever heard, be very soon forgotten.

W. E. HARLAND-OXLEY. C2, The Almshouses, Rochester Row, S.W.


May I submit to you an explanation which has occurred to me of the origin of that much disputed, and never quite satisfactorily ex- plained, line in 4 Hamlet ' : Marry, this is miching mallicho ; it means mischief? I am well aware that already some dozen conjectures swell the volume of variorum editions, and although I think I hear one exclaim, " What ! will the line' stretch out to the crack o' doom?" 1 cannot refrain from offering a derivation which is entirely new, and which, if it does not elucidate, cannot, at any rate, obscure the text.

My suggestion is that" miching mallicho '- I take one of the many readings is a corrupt form of Michi Manito, the great spirit of evil in the theology of the North American Indians.

As to the probability of Shakespeare s knowledge of this deity,! may point out that ' Hamlet ' was written only a little more than a century after the discovery of America. At that time there can be no doubt that the excitement and curiosity which followed so momentous an event had not greatly abated. Money was raised to equip vessels and to organize crews for exploratory voyages to the New World, while, even in those days, the publishers had the enterprise to flood the market with books of travel and adventure, some of them of an unusually sensational character. The manners and cus- toms, and, above all, the religious ideas of the hitherto unknown race of men who inhabited Transatlantic shores were naturally the objects of a lively interest in Europe, and it is more than probable that the novel theology of the redskin became the subject of discussion in England where the tide of religious zeal ran

Now the First Quarto reading is "This is myching mallicho, that meanes my chiefe," and, " myching mallicho " (the words are sometimes printed with initial capitals) or Michi Manito meaning the chief of evil, it is likely that the words "that meanes my chiefe," or " that means mischief," as some editions have it, are an explanatory play upon words such as is frequent in Shakespeare.

The spelling of the two expressions is dis- tinct, but too great importance can be attached to differences in spelling. Irregular,

slipshod, and phonetic spellings are of con- stant occurrence in the works of all the old dramatists, and Shakespeare's plays are no exception (cp. Bilboes = Bilbaos, Ber- moothes = Bermudas, Yaughan= (?) John); while the English attempts at spelling the language of the North American Indians exhibit a conspicuous lack of uniformity.

Although mention of the Indian god in question is to be found in modern works vide Campbell's 'Gertrude of Wyoming,' pt. i. stanza xvii.,

As when the evil Manitou that dries The Ohio woods,

and Longfellow's 'Hiawatha,' pt. xv. ii.,

All the Manitos of mischief I must confess myself confronted with the difficulty that my endeavours to find a reference to Michi Manito in print before 1602-3 have been futile. I have hopes, however, that some student of Hakluyt, Hariot, or some other of the early writers of travel may one day turn it up.

The common explanation that "miching mallicho" means "skulking crime" an Elizabethan verb " mich " signifying, accord- ing to Minsheu, "to hide himselfe out of the way as truants doe from schoole," and "mallicho" being taken as a form of the Spanish malhecho, meaning a crime, a malefac- tion does not lack connexion, and the word " micher " appears in ' 1 Henry IV.,' II. iv., "Shall the blessed sun of heaven prove a micher of blackberries'?" But, assuming that Shakespeare had any knowledge of Spanish, there is no very obvious reason wny he should put a Spanish word in Hamlet's mouth at this particular moment. Neither Gray, Capell, Farmer, nor Keightley appeared satisfied with this explanation, and they respectively suggested "miching mal- becco," "munching mallicho," "mimicking malbecco," and "mucho malhecho," none of them, by the way, thinking of Old French malichons, a curse, akin to our malison, and none of them, I think, giving an explanation so in harmony with the mysticism of Hamlet's mind as that I now supply.


The Laurels, Ashtead, Surrey.

'AN ENGLISHWOMAN'S LOVE - LETTERS.' I suppose that I must be considered old- fashioned, but I have always thought that when an author addresses the public in a preface, or "explanation," he desires to be believed.

Now when this little volume came out at the close of the year 1900 one of the very