George Stimpson

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Who first said: "Murder will out"?

"Murder will out" is a very old phrase in the English language and it is of unknown authorship. The idea expressed by it occurs in Cursor Mundi, a work written by an unidentified hand about 1290. The phrase occurs twice in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, [page 45] written about 1386. "Murder will out, certain, it will not fail" is found in The Prioresses Tale, and "Murder will out, that see we day by day," in The Priests Tale. Shakespeare alludes several times to the same notion. In Richard III, Act 1, scene 4, the First Murderer, who had ust helped to kill the Duke of Clarence, says: "For this will out, and so I must not stay." Launcelot Gobbo, in The Merchant of Venice, Act II, scene2, says: "Murder cannot be hid long; a man's son may; but at the length, truth will out." The Prince of Denmark, in Hamlet, Act I, scene 2, says:

Foul deeds will rise,
Though all the earth o'erwhelm them, to men's eyes.
And again in Act II, scene 2:
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ.
In Idea, written about 1627, Michael Drayton wrote: "Yet heav'n will still have murder out at last." In the fable of The Cock and the Fox John Dryden wrote:
Murder may pass unpunish'd for a time,
But tardy justice will o'ertake the crime.
Despite the proverbial notion that murderers will be found out sooner or later and properly punished, large numbers of murders committed throughout the world are never solved.