Is Juliet too young to marry?

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enotes | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In Act I, scene iii, we are twice told that Juliet is only thirteen years old, once by Old Capulet and again by the Nurse. Scholarly research has determined that this was an unusually young age for girls to marry in Elizabethan England, where women typically wed in their late teens or early twenties. Yet Lady Capulet tells her daughter that, "younger than you/Here in Verona, ladies of esteem,/are made already mothers" (I, iii., ll.69-71). She proceeds to imperfectly recall that she herself was just thirteen when she gave birth to Juliet. From the standpoint of Shakespeare's audiences, thirteen or fourteen was, in fact, an inordinately tender age for marriage. Nevertheless, by the norms of Verona, a realm that is less orderly and more given to passion than England under Elizabeth, Juliet's young age is a subject for discussion but not a sufficient cause to forestall marriage.

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