What does this saying by Shakespeare mean? When daffodils begin to peer... Why, then comes in the sweet o' the year... Good morrow
He used Old English when he wrote his plays and poems. What does the quotation mean, in the language we speak today?
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This is from the song that opens Act 4, scene 3 of The Winter's Tale. The rogue Autolycus is singing about how, as the first response noted, it is springtime, the sweetest time of the year, during which he can chase after women, engage in thievery, and drink ale.
Also, Shakespeare did not write in Old English. If you take a look at the poem Beowulf in the original, that is Old English. Grab a copy of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in the original to see what Middle English looks like. Shakespeare is actually modern English, although the spelling of various words has changed over time. What you see when you grab a modern edition at the library or bookstore is something that has been edited: the spelling cleaned up, the punctuation regularized, etc. But it is still modern English. With practice and some good footnotes to help with the obscure words, Shakespeare needs to no translation (at least not like Beowulf does).
He means that Spring is the best time of the year.
Daffodils open their flowers in March in England.
So... "When daffodils begin to appear, we know that the best time of year has started."
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