The Problem of Age in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Document Type:Thesis

Subject Area:Literature

Document 1

There is a larger problem, one that presents itself centuries after the play was written – boys and girls looking to the text as a means of making adult decisions before ever reaching what we consider a "mature age" today. In this essay, we will define the ages of these youth, look at 14th/15th century standards, the developmental milestones of a 13-year old, the developmental milestones of a 17-year-old, and why we should stop presenting William Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers to such an impressionable age of children. So the question remains, how old are Romeo and Juliet? When looking directly at Romeo, age is not disclosed in the text; however, it is speculated that he was between the ages of 17 and 21 (due to his wielding a sword). Shifting focus to Juliet, age is described in the text as "my child is yet a stranger in the world. She hath not seen the change of fourteen years. Shakespeare, 1597) Capulet confirms her age (13) with these words in act 1, scene 2, lines 8-9. Unfortunately, these Romeo and Juliet ages would not be unfathomable during this time. Even Juliet was betrothed to Paris before her 14th birthday – this was customary during this time. Based on what we know about the societal roles of women in the 14th/15th century, we can discern that Juliet likely received some education, but not as much as her Romeo did. Since there were no "age brackets" back in these times, it is likely that Juliet was already being groomed to do what women were expected to do – get married, bear children, keep the house, and care for her husband and children.

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Womer) For the sake of the argument about youth, we will set the Romeo and Juliet age gap at three years – thirteen and seventeen. The developmental milestones that we measure in our teens today are obviously a lot different from those set in the time of Romeo and Juliet. We have grown, evolved, and value education a lot more than in the Renaissance. The term "teenager" did not exist back then – it is a relatively new classification that came about in the 1920s, but the idea was developed back in the 19th century. US History - Independence Hall Association) At the age of 13, the brain is still developing, and young teens are learning who they can trust and what to believe in. Even in 14th/15th century Verona, what we classify as teenagers, were still developing.

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Development often has bumps in the road, like impulsive decisions (stabbing herself), expressing new feelings (wedding Romeo), and rebellious behaviors (refusing to marry Paris). Romeo is not without his developmental bumps. He killed Tybalt (impulsive decision), climbed up Juliet's balcony (expressing new feelings), and rebellious behaviors (coming back to Verona after being banished). The Influence of Teenage Behaviors in Romeo and Juliet) In an article from Smithsonian Magazine, the title implies that the brains of teenagers are like impressionable Play-Doh. This is much like our teens who say they are spending the night at one place and go another. Stories like these are suggestive, influencing the already impressionable minds of teens. To close, I want to show how impressionable our youth is and why we should consider waiting to present works like Romeo and Juliet until they have a more mature mindset.

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The Netflix show "13 Reasons Why" was associated with a 28. increase in suicide rates among youth in the United States ages 10-17, just one month following the release. Retrieved from VeryWellFamily: https://www. verywellfamily. com/13-year-old-developmental-milestones-2609025 Nuwer, R. Teenage Brains Are Like Soft, Impressionable Play-Doh. Retrieved from Smithsonian Magazine: https://www. Retrieved from IPL: https://www. ipl. org/essay/The-Influence-Of-Teenage-Behaviors-In-Romeo-F3V8DMHESCF6#:~:text=The%20behaviors%20portrayed%20in%20Romeo,shown%20in%20Romeo%20and%20Juliet. US History - Independence Hall Association. n. cedarcrest. edu/: http://www2. cedarcrest. edu/academic/eng/lfletcher/shrew/bwomer. htm.

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