And since that time it is eleven years,
For then she could stand alone. Nay, by the rood,
She could have run and waddled all about,
For even the day before, she broke her brow.
And then my husband—God be with his soul!
He was a merry man—took up the child.
“Yea,” quoth he, “Dost thou fall upon thy face?
Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit,
Wilt thou not, Jule?” and, by my holy dame,
The pretty wretch left crying and said “ay.”

The dictionary entry that comes first has this to say about "ay":


adverb, Archaic.

ever; always.

The one that says it is a variant of "aye" is third on the list.

Here's the dictionary entry

Both meanings fit perfectly; the former ("always") is a dash more comical.

Which is it?

  • 2
    She was crying, so it's always possible she was using Ay! (sometimes repeated, and spelt Ai-ai-ai!) in the sense given by the full OED as Alas! Ah me! — an ejaculation of regret, sorrow, pity. But it's all a matter of opinion and Lit Crit interpretation. – FumbleFingers Apr 12 '17 at 16:47
  • @FumbleFingers Yes, but she left crying. – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 12 '17 at 19:02
  • She brightened up. – Ricky Apr 12 '17 at 19:09
  • @StoneyB: Literary Studies degree or not, I'm not daft enough to argue with you of all people about the precise meaning of a line in Shakespeare! My substantive point (clearly bolstered by Both meanings fit perfectly in the OP) is that it's essentially a matter of Lit Crit / Interpretation. Obviously Ricky here doesn't agree that such interpretation is Off Topic for ELU, but that's my position. – FumbleFingers Apr 12 '17 at 19:21
  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it should be migrated to Literature. – curiousdannii Apr 13 '17 at 2:47

According to No Fear Shakespeare → Romeo and Juliet → Act 1, Scene 3, Page 3

“Yes,” said my husband, “Did you fall on your face? You’ll fall backward when you grow up, won’t you, Jule?” And she stopped crying and said, “Yes.”

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    I'm upvoting, but No Fear Shakespeare is no Gospel. – Ricky Apr 12 '17 at 16:56
  • 1
    I know. My Riverside Shakespeare is at home. – MikeJRamsey56 Apr 12 '17 at 17:01
  • That is a poor gloss: it ruins the joke. I'd say not a reliable source for the meaning of the original. – MetaEd Apr 13 '17 at 15:43
  • @MetaEd I finally got a look at my Riverside Shakspeare and it does not have a footnote for "Ay". Is your problem the fact that I essentially cited Sparknotes? While I understand your prejudice against the source remember that these notes are written by serious experts. – MikeJRamsey56 Apr 13 '17 at 23:48
  • It's actually to do with how they treated the rest of the quoted passage. – MetaEd Apr 13 '17 at 23:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.