nine “men's morris is fill'd up with mud—The,” A MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM, ii. 1. 98. “This game was some times called the nine mens merrils, from merelles or mereaux, an ancient French word for the jettons or counters with which it was played. The other term morris is probably a corruption suggested by the sort of dance which in the progress of the game the counters performed. In the French merelles each party had three counters only, which were to be placed in a line in order to win the game. It appears to have been the Tremerel mentioned in an old fabliau. See Le Grand, Fabliaux et contes, tom. ii. p. 208. Dr. Hyde thinks the morris or merrils was known during the time that the Normans continued in possession of England, and that the name was afterwards corrupted into three mens morals, or nine mens morals. If this be true, the conversion of morals into morris, a term so very familiar to the country people, was extremely natural. The doctor adds, that it was likewise called nine-penny, or nine-pin miracle, three-penny morris, five-penny morris, nine-penny morris, or three-pin, five-pin, and nine-pin morris, all corruptions of three-pin etc. merels. Hyde, Hist. Nerdiludii, p. 202” (DOUCE) . “Merelles, or, as it was formerly called in England, nine mens morris, and also fivepenny morris, is a game of some antiquity. Cotgrave describes it as a boyish game, and says it was played here commonly with stones, but in France with pawns, or men, made on purpose, and they were termed merelles; hence the pastime itself received that denomination. It was certainly much used by the shepherds formerly, and continues to be used by them and other rustics to the present hour. But it is very far from being confined to the practice of boys and girls. The form of the merelletable, and the lines upon it, as it appeared in the fourteenth century, is given upon the thirtieth plate; and these lines have not been varied. The black spots at every angle and intersection of the lines are the places for the men to be laid upon; and the manner of playing is briefly this: two persons, having each of them nine pieces, or men [Note. Which are different in form or colour for distinction sake; and from the moving these men backwards or forwards, as though they were dancing a morris, I suppose the pastime received the appellation of Nine Men's Morris. But why it should have been called fivepenny morris, I do not know], lay them down alternately, one by one, upon the spots; and the business of either party is to prevent his antagonist from placing three of his pieces so as to form a row of three, without the intervention of an opponent piece. If a row be formed, he that made it is at liberty to take up one of his competitor's pieces from any part he thinks most to his own advantage. [Note. Excepting he has made a row, which must not be touched if he have another piece upon the board that is not a component part of that row.] When all the pieces are laid down, they are played backwards and forwards, in any direction that the lines run, but can only move from one spot to another at one time: he that takes off all his antagonist's pieces is the conqueror. The rustics, when they have not materials at hand to make a table, cut the lines in the same form upon the ground, and make a small hole for every dot. They then collect, as above mentioned, stones of different forms or colours for the pieces, and play the game by depositing them in the holes in the same manner that they are set over the dots upon the table. Hence Shakespeare, describing the effects of a wet and stormy season [in the present passage],” Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, p. 279, sec. ed. “In that part of Warwickshire where Shakespeare was educated, and the neighbouring parts of Northamptonshire, the shepherds and other boys dig up the turf with their knives to represent a sort of imperfect chess-board. It consists of a square, sometimes only a foot diameter, sometimes three or four yards. Within this is another square, every side of which is parallel to the external square; and these squares are joined by lines drawn from each corner of both squares, and the middle of each line. One party, or player, has wooden pegs, the other stones, which they move in such a manner as to take up each other's men, as they are called, and the area of the inner square is called the pound, in which the men taken up are impounded. These figures are by the country people called Nine Men's Morris or Merrils; and are so called because each party has nine men. These figures are always cut upon the green turf, or leys as they are called, or upon the grass at the end of ploughed lands, and in rainy seasons never fail to be choked [fill'd] up with mud” (JAMES) . “Nine men's morris is a game still played by the shepherds, cowkeepers, etc., in the midland counties, as follows: a figure is made on the ground (like this which I have drawn) by cutting out the turf; and two persons take each nine stones, which they place by turns in the angles, and afterwards move alternately, as at chess or draughts. He who can place three in a straight line may then take off any one of his adversary's, where he pleases, till one, having lost all his men, loses the game” (ALCHORNE) .
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