How old does Juliet have to be to get married?

Though there isn't a legal age requirement for marriage specified in Romeo and Juliet, modern readers will likely be alarmed that thirteen-year-old Juliet is faced with the prospect of marriage. Juliet's father does not want her to marry until she is fifteen or sixteen years old, while her mother wants her to marry as soon as possible.

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The play never mentions any minimum legal age Juliet must reach before she can marry. Juliet is thirteen years old when the play begins, and her family all disagree as to how much longer they should wait before marrying her off.

For her part, Lady Capulet is eager to get...

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The play never mentions any minimum legal age Juliet must reach before she can marry. Juliet is thirteen years old when the play begins, and her family all disagree as to how much longer they should wait before marrying her off.

For her part, Lady Capulet is eager to get Juliet married to Count Paris. Her reasoning is that she married Lord Capulet and then gave birth to Juliet when she was Juliet's age, so why shouldn't Juliet make the same decision? She urges Juliet to try to make herself love Paris so she'll be all the more eager to marry him as soon as possible.

Lord Capulet feels differently. When Paris presses him to give him his consent to marry Juliet, Capulet is reluctant:

My child is yet a stranger in the world;
She hath not seen the change of fourteen years,
Let two more summers wither in their pride,
Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride.

When Paris counters that younger girls have been made mothers (in line with Lady Capulet's mode of thinking), Capulet counters that "too soon marr'd are those so early made." To mar something is to ruin it. By this, he means Juliet might spoil her life by entering into something as adult as marriage before she is emotionally ready. He views Juliet as an innocent (hence, she is "a stranger in the world"). He also might be afraid of her dying in childbirth, a common fate during the time period of the story.

It must also be noted that Capulet says "the earth hath swallow'd all my hopes but she"—implying perhaps that all of his other children have died and only Juliet has survived past early childhood. All of Capulet's hopes for the future ride on his daughter, and he wants to be sure she is fully ready when the time comes for her to marry.

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