How are teenagers represented in Romeo & Juliet?
Teenagers are represented as passionate and strong-willed, but also compulsive. They are also represented as victims of adults.
It is easy to suggest that Romeo and Juliet are a couple of silly kids who got mixed up in things they did not understand and paid for it with their lives. However, if we look at things more closely we notice that it was actually the adults that made the most mistakes.
Shakespeare says it best in the initial prologue.
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrows
Doth, with their death, bury their parents’ strife.(Act 1 prologue, p. 8)
It is the parents’ strife. Yes, Romeo and Juliet do get into ‘misadventures,’ as all teens do. However, if the parents were not feuding then they would not have had such tragic consequences.
Yes, Romeo and Juliet acted compulsively and selfishly. They were interested only in themselves, and did not care about their parents’ wishes. But who can blame them? Look at what their parents wanted? They wanted them to hate another family simply because of the name. They wanted them to fight each other. They wanted Juliet to marry a man she barely knew to advance her father’s social status.
Romeo and Juliet is a play about mistakes, but it’s important to recognize that the kids are not the only ones making them. Friar Lawrence fully acknowledged his part in the young couple’s death. What was he thinking?! If he had not given Juliet the potion on the long shot that she could overcome Romeo’s banishment and get her parents to see reality, she would not have died because Romeo would not have killed himself thinking she was dead.
Juliet’s father wants to relieve what he thinks are tears for Tybalt and so doesn't understand when Juliet is not proud to be betrothed to Paris.
Soft! take me with you, take me with you, wife.
How? Will she none? Doth she not give us thanks?(145)
Is she not proud? Doth she not count her blest,
Unworthy as she is, that we have wrought
So worthy a gentleman to be her bridegroom? (Act 3, Scene 5, p. 83)
When Juliet and Capulet disagree, Nurse comes to her defense, telling Capulet, “You are to blame.” In the end, it is his insistence that she marry so soon after the feud has resulted in Tybalt’s death that leads to her destruction.
So while the teenagers are represented as reckless, their parents are shown to be even more so. It is easy to get caught up in blaming the title characters for being too free with their love, but their parents and other adults are just as much to blame for the tragedy.