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In Romeo and Juliet, is Juliet too young to marry?

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chloemink | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted January 26, 2007 at 5:42 AM via web

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In Romeo and Juliet, is Juliet too young to marry?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 24, 2012 at 2:56 AM (Answer #7)

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I don't know this for sure, but I suspect that Shakespeare had a practical reason for making Juliet so young and also for writing the dialogue that would establish her age as precisely thirteen. As is well known, female roles were played by boys. No doubt Shakespeare had a particular boy in mind to play Juliet, and the boy was very young. The play is about young love. Shakespeare needed a boy who could pass for a young girl. This suggests that he was obliged to choose a boy who was a good actor/actress as well as still having a soprano voice. Otherwise, I see no reason why Shakespeare with a stroke of the quill could not have made Juliet fifteen or sixteen. Thirteen seems awfully young for any era, not just because we don't like to think of girls that age having babies, but because it is hard to believe that a thirteen-year-old girl could be so passionate, headstrong, and devious as Juliet.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 6, 2014 at 12:24 AM (Answer #10)

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I think the real question is: Why did Shakespeare make Juliet thirteen years old when he could easily have made her at least fifteen or sixteen--or just left her age unspecified? No doubt he would have done just that if he had been able to use a real girl to play the role rather than a boy. Juliet is an extremely important role in the play. She is more important than most of the others, and just as important as Romeo. Shakespeare probably did not have a wide range of actors to choose from for this part. He needed a boy who was talented enough to carry the demanding role from beginning to end, and one who could be considered exceptionally beautiful. Shakespeare himself seems to be apologizing for making his Juliet so young. He has her father himself protesting that she is too young to marry. Even in Shakespeare's time it must have seemed like a bad idea for a girl to be getting married when she was only thirteen. Childbirth in those days was dangerous enough for any women; it must have been infinitely more dangerous for a girl just entering adolescence. One wonders, as well, what these passionate young men, Romeo and Paris, would see in such an immature girl. The casting of Juliet for his play must have been one of Shakespeare's biggest problems. It would still be a problem today, whether casting for a stage play or a movie, even though there would be no problem with getting a real female to play the part. No doubt the director would totally ignore the fact that Juliet was supposed to be thirteen years old (about the age of Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz) and would choose a beautiful ingenue who was at least eighteen.

Sources:

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gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 25, 2007 at 1:39 AM (Answer #1)

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I'd say so, but the real question is, who is asking, and who is answering? She's 13, and by modern standards, that's very young. It also seems young to Juliet's father. However, as Paris points out in Act I, girls younger than 13 are already mothers (and according to him, happy about it). And Paris is right, at least historically; people married much younger in that period.

But look at her emotional ups and downs! She's so young!

Greg

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luvthekingofsc | Student , Grade 9 | Honors

Posted February 25, 2007 at 12:41 PM (Answer #2)

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Back then, (when they lived short-lives) she was considered old. Paris points out that women who were younger than her were already mothers. Nowadays, though, yes. Far too young.

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youthinkilikeyou | Student , Undergraduate | Honors

Posted July 2, 2007 at 10:28 PM (Answer #3)

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In my opinion? Yes. In the opinion of the Elizabethian audience it would have been a different matter. In the time of this play, every father would find a good suitor whom was rich and willing to marry his daughter as soon as she became a teenager.

Why? Because the parents of a daughter were worried about their daughters' hormones running wild and urging her to go about the town and trying different things out; thus becoming pregnant without being married. This was frowned upon and would bring shame to any household.

Thus, the daughters were to marry at an early age so as if they became pregnant, they had a good man who would look after her and the baby.

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beccasmith | Student , Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 14, 2009 at 4:16 AM (Answer #4)

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No she's not, in modern day terms its similar to someone who has only just turned 16 getting married, it is very close to being unacceptableand there would still be some stigma in society about it. Whether she is mature enough to get married is another matter which is more personal. She is shown as very young in her submissions to her father; however it could be argued that this is just another historical trait of the play, so I guess you'll just have to make up your own mind about that!

PS I'm from England so i don't know if my year at school's right but i don't suppose that matters really :)

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revolution | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted July 15, 2009 at 9:51 PM (Answer #5)

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Yes. Thirteen years old is way too young to go into marriage according to our modern standards, in the late twenties would be more acceptable.

The fact was also greatly supported by the Elizabethan England period, when women typically wed in their late teens or early twenties. But, in Pari's point of view, she felt that 13-year olds are already mothers in that age, which contradict to the traditions that everybody follows.

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cheeko101 | Student , Grade 11 | eNoter

Posted July 21, 2011 at 1:51 AM (Answer #6)

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No in the old days!!!

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vanessamedrano-luna | Student , Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 15, 2012 at 6:16 AM (Answer #8)

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Not for her time, she may have even been a bit old . People lived shorter time spans so had to marry young . Her father did something a bit out of the ordinary, too . Instead of forcing her daughter to marry someone, he told Paris that Juliet had to love him back.

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justinyu | Honors

Posted October 14, 2012 at 3:01 AM (Answer #9)

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back in the old days, being married before 15 was common, and many people were mothers already. although in the play, people fell that she is a bit young, its accepted. still id say shes too young

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