We commonly share and accept the misconception that young people in Shakespeare's times married early. Shakespeare himself has helped perpetuate this misconception with the often quoted lines where Paris observes that women younger than Juliet "are happy mothers made." Capulet counters with "And too soon marr'd are those so early made." In other places, Capulet cautions that his daughter is "yet a stranger to the world" and that she should wait at least two years before marrying. Elizabethan audiences would have agreed with Capulet.
Actually, in Shakespeare's time the average age of marriage for women was 25 to 26 for women and 27 to 28 for men. I learned this while working on a graduate degree in Shakespeare in a class on the social history of early modern England. For anyone interested in exploring customs in Shakespeare's time, I'd recommend our main text for the class: David Cressy's Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England.
On another note, the rash decisions by Juliet and Romeo to seek solutions in suicide underline their inexperience and lack of guidance. The adults who might have counseled them have deserted them or otherwise left them to their own devices. Friar Lawrence considered his own reputation before he thought to stay with Juliet and make sure she didn't do anything stupid.
Loving science and medicine as I do, I must nonetheless disagree with #7. The experiments/evidence which she offers, while certainly valid TODAY, would most likely not have been relevant in Shakespeare's day, when lifespans were considerably shorter. Shakespeare's likely sources were all 16th century, as well. Puberty, marriage, and child-bearing occurred earlier in life: "Younger than she are happy mothers made," and Juliet was 13. Science keeps proving that "nurture" affects "nature," and 1550s nurture for girls included EARLY marriage and children, whatever the age of the groom. Of course adolescents would be impetuous -- but so was the older Mercutio, who eagerly entered into the duel which killed him. SO WAS FRIAR LAURENCE, who did not think through the tragedy which could result from his marrying them or from providing Juliet with her potion. SO WAS THE NURSE, who acceded almost instantly to Juliet's pleadings. And we could probably each list 40 "famous" people WELL past their teenage years whose impetuosity has been catastrophic, some of these people governing countries as we speak. . . Would that ONLY age were responsible for rash decisions!
Absolutely! One of the major themes is the impetuosity of youth vs. the wisdom of age. For instance, in Act II, Scene 6, Friar Laurence cautions Romeo, who hastens to wed Juliet after just meeting her:
These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume. The sweetest honey
Is loathsome in his own deliciousness
And in the taste confounds the appetite.
Therefore love moderately; long love doth so;
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.
Of course, haste is the final undoing of both Romeo and Juliet. For, when Romeo discovers Juliet in the tomb, he asks himself why her cheeks are yet so pink, but does not try to revive her or determine whether she is alive or not. Instead, he commits suicide believing he cannot live without her.
Romeo and Juliet's age certainly contributes to their fates. That feeling of love is so strong at their ages (Juliet at 13 and Romeo close to the same age). I teach seventh graders, and when they fall in love for the first time, it is all consuming. They struggle to see that life will go on even if the relationship does not.
However, the fact their families were at war with one another may have had more to do with their final fates. Each one may have felt more freedom to confide in family members had their love not been considered such "forbidden fruit." Shakespeare sets up a powerful scenario where each feels isolated from family. As a result, they feel they can only rely upon one another.
I want to suggest a different evidence to prove that Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare's play were too young to decide their own fates reasonably. Juliet is only 13 years old and Romeo, although not specified, is assumed to be of similar age.
Other than being too young and having little experience, from a more scientific perspective, they were physically too immature to think logically and make rational decisions for themselves. There was a research done using magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, that showed how the frontal lobe (the part of your brain that is responsible for reasoning and problem solving) continues to grow until one's early 20's. So biologically saying, Juliet and Romeo were far from having mature frontal lobes and the ability to reason or take responsibility. This accounts for the ludicrous decisions that they made in the name of love.
Their age does play a role. They are young and foolish. They are quicker to act first and less likely to really understand the consequences of those actions. However, they aren't too young to be married. In fact, they are at the right age for marriage during their time period. They both would have likely been looking for a partner and pressured to marry soon. This might have contributed to their hasty relationship.
There is a lot of innocence and naivete involved in the feelings and goals that both Romeo and Juliet have. Older characters might take a more practical view of the situation, especially regarding crossing family feud lines. They also would probably be a lot less likely to hatch such a scheme at the end of the play to try to get together.
Romeo and Juliet are too young to have experienced love many times. As they say, falling in love for the first time is spectacular. You think your feeling is very special, and you never will feel it again. Had they been older, they might not have fallen for one another so quickly. They might have stopped to think about the consequences of their actions. As it was, they were young and in love and nothing else mattered.
Perhaps. They fall in love very quickly, and Romeo in particular acts impetuously, without considering the consequences of his actions. They also do not seem conscious, especially Romeo, of how their actions might affect other people. Mercutio, in a sense, pays the price for this.
Yeah, I think so. The fact that they are so young helps make them impulsive and stupid. If they had been 40 years old, they would likely have been thinking about all the implications of getting in a relationship. There would have been no tragedy had they been more mature.
It is fun to think about what it would be like if the two were older, but I think the age is less of a factor than most are making it out to be. The fact that they are from rival houses is more about what makes it so Tragic.
That being said, I think that if Romeo was older he would have had a cooler head and may not have killed Paris, yet I think Tybalt would have still died.
Yes. Their age is of one that contributes to the factor of immaturity. At the end of the play, their act of love (the kiss) becomes an act of violence (they killed themselves). If they were older, they would have understood that death is not the number one solution to everything.
However their age is not the only factor. The parents themselves sometimes show no maturity and understanding. Look at how Capulet treated his daughter when he forced her to marry Paris! It is because of their parent's actions and inability to help their children that led to R&J's death.