What are some similarities and differences between teenagers today and those in the 1520s (the time of Romeo and Juliet)?
One of the aspects of Romeo and Juliet that makes it a staple in many high school English classrooms is the fact that it is relevant for even modern teenagers. The love story in particular -- the fact that Romeo and Juliet fall for each other so quickly -- is something to which many teenagers can relate. Many teenagers fall hard and feel strong feelings early in a relationship. The friendship between Mercutio, Romeo, and Benvolio also echoes many friendships that we see portrayed in modern movies. Finally, the discord felt between Juliet and her parents, and the fact that she feels misunderstood by them, gels with the feelings of many modern teenagers.
Yet, there are clear differences between Romeo and Juliet's world and our own. That Juliet's faked death goes awry is predicated on the fact that the plan is not delivered to Romeo on time. In this day and age of Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other instantaneous communication, that breakdown likely would not have occurred. The issues surrounding Juliet's marriage are out-of-step with a modern setting as well. That Juliet was due to be married off at the age of 13 is hard for most of us to imagine. Most states in the US would prohibit marriage at that young an age. Likewise, the fact that Juliet's father is arranging her marriage does not gel in a culture that primarily marries for love.
In the end, however, despite the obvious differences between the time periods, there are definitely aspects of the play to which modern students can, and do, relate.