(plural mortal coils)
Alluding to this quotation:
- circa 1600, William Shakespeare, Hamlet, act III, scene 1:
- For in that sleepe of death, what dreames may come, / When we haue shuffel'd off this mortall coile, / Must giue vs pawse.
The two senses result from two interpretations of the word coil, one taking it to mean “tumult, confusion, fuss”, the other “case, wrapping”. In either case, the phrase “shuffle off this mortal coil” must mean “die”. Since "shuffle off" is generally taken to mean "get rid of" or "evade" it is likely that in the sense that Shakespeare used it, it was specifically referring to the act of suicide.