Help with Essay on Historical Context vs. Modern Times in "Romeo and Juliet'Discuss why the attitudes and behaviour of the characters in Romeo & Juliet, which were normal in their time, appear...

Help with Essay on Historical Context vs. Modern Times in "Romeo and Juliet'

Discuss why the attitudes and behaviour of the characters in Romeo & Juliet, which were normal in their time, appear unacceptable today.

This essay should evaluate both eras and discuss how and why things have changed including language, the role of parents, marriage/romance, families fueding, use of weapons, birth/nurses and freedom. 

So far I have written about Shakespeare and and the play itself. Also, I have started to write about how people lived a valued life compared to today... I think I'm doing ok but if I want to get an A grade then I need to know if I'm on the right lines. I would really appreciate your help, thank you :)

Expert Answers
jessecreations eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Another thing to consider is the age issue.  In the play, it says that Juliet "hath not seen the change of fourteen years."  So she's 13 years old and her father is ready to marry her off to Paris, an older man.  In today's American society, Mr. Capulet would have been accused of child abuse for arranging a marraige for his 13-year-old daughter.  But at the time, she was nearly ready to begin her life as a wife and a mother. 

The age issue often comes into play when people consider the love between Romeo and Juliet.  A modern reader finds it easy to say that teenagers cannot possibly feel so strongly about each other that they are ready to die for that love; but it is important to remember their ages in the perspective of their time.  If the play were written today, R&J would have to be in their mid-twenties or so to make it a fair comparison.

You also mentioned the idea of births and nurses.  Juliet is close to her nurse because that woman would have literally nursed Juliet (or breastfed her) as an infant.  Lady Capulet gave birth to Juliet, but passed them off to a "wet nurse" to feed them.  So the bond between Juliet and her nurse is more than just child-to-babysitter or nanny.  Today, most people would find that weird to nurse someone else's child, so we just use baby formula if a mother cannot or does not want to nurse a baby.

engtchr5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Even after the Renaissance, the world of Shakespeare's timeframe was one of chivalry and gentility. Women were housewives and mothers, and little else. They did not work outside the home, and they were treated like queens by their husbands and men in general. Today, chivalry is all but dead. If a man opens a door for a woman, it can sometimes be interpreted as sexist by those who are offended by the manners and social politeness of yesteryear. What's more, women have achieved equality in the workplace and in society at large, for the most part (there are still exceptions to this; research "glass ceiling" on Google). Ideally, women are treated as men's equals rather than their helpers or assistants in today's average workplace.

While fights and the use of weapons were both considered commonplace in the time of Shakespeare, today's conflicts are supposed to be settled with words or civil actions. That doesn't mean that violence doesn't still exist, but it is considered a social taboo at least, and illegal in its worst forms. There are many other contrasts between the Shakespearean era and today's world, but these two should make for a healthy start. 


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Romeo and Juliet

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