Thursday, November 16, 2006

Romeo and Juliet : How old is Romeo?

There's a simple question. Sure, we all know that Juliet is 13, the Nurse comes right out and tells us. And often I think that we then make the leap and assume that Romeo is 13 as well.

But that's hardly true, is it? Would that imply that Mercutio, Tybalt and Paris are also all about 13? Surely it was the case that men simply chose younger wives (Capulet is much older than his wife, is he not?), and actually we can assume that Romeo and the others are what, maybe late teens, early 20's?

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It wouldn't stage well these days to point out that age difference, of course. I can just imagine R&J being closed down because it promotes pedophilia or something. But honestly I'm cool with it (the age difference, not the pedophilia!)- the more I read the play (I'm studying it lately for a project I'm doing), the more I appreciate the fact that Juliet is the most mature person in it. So the fact that she's 13, surrounded by people that are sometimes generations older than her, is quite impressive. I don't need to make her older to justify anything, and I don't need to make Romeo younger to get it to balance out. 

Romeo can be older and still be rash and impetuous. Juliet can be young and be the smart one. I'd rather have that than have to imagine a 13yr old Tybalt delivering lines like "I hate the word, as I hate Hell, all Montagues, and thee...."

Update: While looking at the trivia for Luhrman's movie, I just learned that apparently Natalie Portman auditioned for the role of Juliet, but because of her small frame it was thought that, in her words, "Leonardo looked like he was molesting me." The director said the same thing I said above, only backwards -- "Leonardo was 21, but could look 18 - and she made him look 21." In other words he looked too old, not that she looked too young.  So that certainly backs up the idea that you have to cast R&J of roughly equivalent ages to avoid squicking out your audience.

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64 comments:

Dr J said...

I have always read Romeo as being on the upper end of 15, or early 16. (Some of the arguments I've heard putting him toward 18 always seemed inexplicably "off.") This way, he's just young enough to be so wanton and so reckless with his sentiments (c.f., the Rosalind fiasco), but not quite old enough to have had enough experiences to jade him accordingly.

Hope you don't mind my commenting here. I enjoy your reframing of Shakie, which, as someone who taught Shakie for more years than he wishes to remember, is a rare thing indeed. Cheers & best.

Duane said...

Thanks Doc! Nice to hear the encouragement. As a complete non-academic who basically reads and talks about Shakespeare for fun, I hold a deep seated insecurity that one day I'm going to say something stupid and all the people who do Shakespeare "for real" are going to laugh at me :).

Of course you're welcome to comment here! I actively encourage it!

RogerTudor said...

The Juliet in the original novel – Romeo and Guilietta – is eighteen. Why did Shakespeare reduce her age? What is the difference between casting a play now to casting a play from a small acting company in Shakespeare’s day? What were the realities of the London in which he existed? If anyone is interested in a few more facts and speculations visit my blog at: http://rogertudor.wordpress.com/

Anonymous said...

Originally (ie Shakespeare's company) Romeo would have had a beard - and would have been played by a 'mature' actor - boys without beard were 'sexless'.

Modern (i.e. post German Romantic) make him younger than he originally was.

a 21 year old would have been right - but suggestions of molestation to modern audiences wipe out the possibilities.

Interestingly, on stage, actors much older than 21 get away with the role.

johnson said...

why yes sir.. i read this because i have to in class.

Anonymous said...

I belive that shakie reduced juliet (or Gullieta)'s age because his plays were often based on italian culture and often included italian characters and at the the time it was common in italy for women/girls of a very young age to carry children and were seen more sexually mature than they were in england at the time and so 'shakie' maybe have been trying to make his plays more acurate, I apolagise if I seem stupid but please remember i am only a 14 year old who has just finished his yr9 S.A.T's

Duane said...

You're 14, and you just voluntarily dove into a conversation about Shakespeare's intentions in making Juliet 13? I hardly think that makes you stupid. My memory of reading Romeo and Juliet at 14 was of being done with it as quickly as possible :). Thanks for the contribution!

LouiseXx said...

i've just been doing R&J in school and my teacher said she'd been researching the play and found that he was seventeen sorri if i sound a geek or moody or anything i don't mean to

XxLoUxX
xAge 14X

Elly said...

I think it's awfully creepy that Juliet was like 13.
My little sister is very mature for her age but it makes my heart sick to think of her in a similar situation of Juliet.
It's also really creepy how Mary (of the bible) was my age and she's all like 'yeah i trust you angel person-knock me up god!'

Now I realize that the women of the past had to grow up much faster than the women of the present, who are generally sheltered and live at home until they become 18.
So don't get me wrong-I love r&j as much as the next person-but I picture Juliet at about the age of 16-17 (still really young, but at least not a teenie-bopper) and romeo at about 20-21.

That's just my take.

rachel said...

Actually im doing Romeo and Juliet at school right now and in the book it says she is 13 and he is 26, in those days it was expected for the man to be twice the age as the girl. (it was just tradition)

Duane said...

Then you have a bad book, Rachel, if it makes statements like that :). The truth is, Shakespeare didn't say -- therefore nobody knows. Everything else is just somebody's guess, no matter how well researched.

Anonymous said...

He can't be too old because (and i quote)

"One Romeus, who was of race a Montague,
Upon whose tender chin, as yet, no manlike beard there grew,
Whose beauty and whose shape so far the rest did stain"

obviously he had not reached puberty yet (no beard yet)

Duane said...

But you are not quote Shakespeare there, you are quoting Brooke:

http://books.google.com/books?id=nFUOAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA3&lpg=PA3&dq=one+romeus+who+was+of+race+montague&source=bl&ots=FK-PXNWyHS&sig=1EpyV0wcsK5PZ-NmtFm6RKnT5AU&hl=en&ei=N2_ZSZLmEIeclAfjw-jFDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#PPR58,M1

Shakespeare changed lots of things, what's to say he didn't change Romeo's age?

Mimi said...

I agree with Dr J- I like to think of Romeo as being in the 15-16-17 range. I am a vehement supporter of age-appropriate actors to play R&J...It's sickening to see 20 year olds playing Juliet. I'm 14, so I'm starting to worry that I'll never be able to play Juliet...

moodyteen said...

Just been reading through some of the comments on Juliets age and Romeo and Juliets marriage...

I've been doing a lot of research for an essay I have to write on the topic and one source (Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare by Emma Smith) said that although most people presume that marriage at that age was a normal thing to do it wasn't. having the couple married so young was unusual and holds some sort of significance and probably would have weirded out audiences at the time. its also important to note that all other accounts of a Romeo and Juliet saga extend over a number of accounts and shakespeare has compressed this to under a week depending on what resource you listen to. In other accounts the pair have time to fall in love however for our R & J its instant which leaves us begging the question...is it love or something else? if you look at one of the resources 'shakie' based his version on "Romeus and Juliet" by Brooke's then it becomes apparent that it was about lust, sin, etc everything that shouldn't be done. however shakespeare has taken Brooke's story and transformed it into legendary lines of inspiration that send the reader into the heady daze of "love". we question it because its too fast,it can't be real, lasting, love.

just thought I'd put my two cents in...albeit getting slightly off topic but oh well =] goodluck!

Anonymous said...

Back in the day, it was common for people in their early- to mid-teens to marry and have children. It was considered that, as soon as you were physically able to have kids, it was right to marry and have kids.
Nowadays there's a bunch of useless, arbitrary rules with regard to the matter. Not to mention the decline of society, by which most teenage girls (and guys) are far too irresponsible to do so (not meant to offend those who are responsible, but it's simply a fact).
My wife and I got married at 17, had a beautiful daughter at 19 and we are doing very well (we are now 21 and our daughter is almost 2). I'm not bragging, simply stating that it can be done.
In the play, Romeo is most likely in his mid- to late teens. I'd have to look at it again (haven't read it since I was 13...) to be sure, but it sounds about right for the time.

Marissa said...

Yes, most teens are horridly irresponsible. That's mostly because of the labor laws at the beginning of the twentieth century. Before that time period people were either children or adults. Of course, everyone, as soon as they were physically able, were expected to work: babies could help with simple tasks as soon as they became toddlers and of course youths were expected to do adult work as soon as they were able.

Anonymous said...

"I can just imagine R&J being closed down because it promotes pedophilia or something. But honestly I'm cool with it (the age difference, not the pedophilia!)"

Has nothing to do with pedophilia since Juliet is 13. Pedophilia is sexual attraction to PREPUBERTAL childern, like 6 year olds.

moodyteen said...

That's absurd! Pedofilia is not restricted to children of that age. A pedophile is a man or woman who has a sexual obsession with children who are deemed to be minors in the eyes of the law. I do not think that Romeo and Juliet has any sort of pedophilia connotations to it, and trying to say it does draws away from the true context of one of Shakespeare's greatest works and trivializes the horror of a pedophiles abuse.

Pedophiles target children of all ages, and no matter what they may think a monster lies in the heart of each and every one of them. do not under estimate the depths they will sink to.

Juliet was 15 (did you READ what Dr J said at all??) and even if she was 13, does that mean its ok for a man in his 40's to have sex with her? NO because that would make him a pedophile. research has shown that children at that age are only just starting to think abstractly, they are not even capable of fully comprehending what is being asked of them, pedophiles take advantage of their innocence and any one who believes that that sort of behaviour is ok is just as bad as them and should be imprisoned with the rest.

Anonymous said...

Don't be silly, moodyteen.
Other Anon was just saying that that's not pedophilia.
It's hasbephilia.

Pedophilia is an attraction to prepubescents, hasbephilia is an attraction to teens.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so I'm just reading the story because I love old English, and Romeo and Juliet have always been on my reading list. So, what I'm getting from this is Romeo is from the ages 16-21? Am I correct?

JM said...

Regardless of how old anyone would prefer Juliet to be, "Even or odde, of all the daies in the year come Lammas Eve at night she shall be fourteene."

This doesn't mean, of course, that she Must be played by a 14 year old.In the 1936 George Cukor film, Norma Shearer was in her 30s I believe, and Leslie Howard (Romeo) was in his 40s!--that I know to be a fact. Not many batted an eye. One more fact: I've never met a 13-14 year old male OR female respectively capable of playing either role. Lack of experience and classical technique being the reason. They just don't have the chops yet.
Another fact, is that we seem to have some kind of mania about making History "fit" our predisposed and/or prescribed estimation of how things "should be" (according to US of course--we're less concerned with how they REALLY WERE it seems).Perhaps that's why we learn so little FROM History.
Fact: No one in history gave a damn about our "opinion".
IN THE TEXT, Juliet "will be" 14. Case closed. We either cut the line or get some actor who's so good nobody gives a flying Capulet about how old she "really is".

So she's almost 14, and mom wants to upbraid her slightly for being a little long in the tooth when it comes to finding a man!?! Yes. It's IN THE TEXT.

Do we think Shakespeare was totally inventing the situation? How old was Romeo? I suppose there will always be someone to tell us how old he SHOULD have been, regardless of how old he COULD have been.
Next thing you know, someone will be accusing Shakespeare of being a child molester!
No matter how much we'd "like" everything to be tied up in a nice neat package, Life is simply not that way. Shakespeare knew it. Just read the TEXT. Why do we think his knowledge of human nature is so extensive?

Here's a little "History":
My mother was 15 when she met the Marine who became my father. He was 19, almost 20. She was 16 when they walked down the aisle together--A Catholic wedding, mind you! I was born 2 months after my mother turned 17. They raised my brother and myself, had a house, 1 1/2 cars (not always), a yard, and food on the table. More than once, they both told me it was "Love at first sight". Anyone who so easily dismisses the possibility of the truthfulness and honesty of that is commenting on and judging my parents. Or can we so easily dismiss that fact as though it doesn't exist either?

"Un-Honest desires"???
Arthur Brooke can go jump in a lake.

Dana said...

Well, The nurse and lady Capulet clearly state that Juliet it thirteen years of age in Act 1 Scene 3. So, her age is not an issue. But is it true that Shakespeare never mentioned Romeo's age. And we cannot rely on Brooke's Romeus and Juliet because of the massive changes that Shakespeare made to the text. I, personally, see Romeo around eighteen, or nineteen. Correct me if I'm wrong, but i don't believe age was much of concern back in the day. Shakespeare himself married Ann Hathaway who was twenty-six when Shakespeare was eighteen. Given, that was not the norm, but it did happen.

I don't find Romeo and Juliet creepy or odd at all. People forget that now-a-days, that might be considered wrong in the eye of the law, or hebephilia, but in the story, Shakespeare portrays a sense of intense, pure love. not a sexual attractions. Romeo doesn't automatically think that way about Juliet. "Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!" He thinks she's beautiful. I think the perception of their love being "creepy" now, it the perverted mind-set of the times we live. The idea that the first thing Romeo thinks about is sex when that couldn't be further from the truth.

So, to reiterate my point, whenever i read the play, i see Romeo somewhere around eighteen.

Just stumbled across your blog while doing some research and thought I'd put in my two cents (:
-Dana, 15y/o

Edison Li said...

"That's absurd! Pedofilia is not restricted to children of that age. A pedophile is a man or woman who has a sexual obsession with children who are deemed to be minors in the eyes of the law. I do not think that Romeo and Juliet has any sort of pedophilia connotations to it, and trying to say it does draws away from the true context of one of Shakespeare's greatest works and trivializes the horror of a pedophiles abuse.

Pedophiles target children of all ages, and no matter what they may think a monster lies in the heart of each and every one of them. do not under estimate the depths they will sink to.

Juliet was 15 (did you READ what Dr J said at all??) and even if she was 13, does that mean its ok for a man in his 40's to have sex with her? NO because that would make him a pedophile. research has shown that children at that age are only just starting to think abstractly, they are not even capable of fully comprehending what is being asked of them, pedophiles take advantage of their innocence and any one who believes that that sort of behaviour is ok is just as bad as them and should be imprisoned with the rest."

What do you mean ONLY beginning to think abstractly! I take that as offending and an insult. I am 12 years old and I began thinking about many "abtract" things since age 7! By the way, pioneer girls were known to marry at age 13. So I see no wrongdoing for a girl to marry at that age in Olde England.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm a bit late to post a comment but when I came across this I had to post my oppinion.
I believe that shakespeare left Romeo agless for a reason.
Juliet, to me at least, was usually the most mature character in the entire story. Romeo was far less mature even though people are sure he was older.
I believe that love is ageless and that as long as you are mature enough to comprehend it you can fall in love.
I think that Romeo was never given an age because, when you think about it, anyone could be Romeo.
He is ageless. I've always assumed that, although it is clear that she is thirteen, he was the person who was her soulmate.
I'm not sure if that made sense but that was my take.
I'd be more interested in finding out why the families were girding to begin with. Although I'm sure even the families wouldn't have an answer.
That's just my take and I'm only 13 so chances are I sound immature

JM said...

To the last "Anonymous" commenter:

Don't put yourself down just because you happen to be a certain age. That's no qualifier for being able to Think. Your interpretive opinion is as valid as anyone else's who happens to be attempting to formulate ideas about the play from information we don't have.

In terms of Romeo being ageless, you make a great deal of sense. And given the fact that he has been played successfully, since the very beginning, by actors of varying ages contributes to your point. It's thought that Richard Burbage was the first to play the role. Burbage also played almost every leading character Shakespeare wrote. In fact, he wrote Lear, Hamlet, Othello, and Richard III, among others, FOR Burbage. And Burbage is known to have been in his late 20's/30's when he was the star player for The Chamberlains Men & The King's Men. Maybe that's one reason (but not the only one) why Shakespeare made Romeo "ageless". :)

PL. said...

Juliet is 13 and Romeo is about 15 years old. My teacher told me. I believe they're quite near that ages. And they're definitely young, yes. But it would be TERRIBLE if they had been like 18 years old, it just seems so, I don't know why. Btw, Juliet's not THAT young, you know. She's perfect to get in love. I mean it's so much better. It feels way better when they're younger. Like, around 18 years old, would be too old, IMHO. I like them very much that way. Thanks for this. XO.
xX.I'm 13, BTW.Xx

Duane said...

Welcome, PL. I agree with everything you said except for the "it's right because my teacher told me" bit. The sooner you stop believing that, the less surprised you'll be when it becomes more obvious later on. Teachers are not perfect.

The text of the play *does not say* how old Romeo is. Therefore no one can say "He is X years old" and have it be anything but a guess. No matter who says it.

JM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
byanyothername said...

Well it obviously says juliet's age "come lamas eve night shall she be 14." so she's obviously 13. As for me, i always pictured romeo being about 15 or 16. I don't think anything about this play is supposed to be of a pedophiliac nature. the way things are is simply a reflection of the culture at the time of it being written. Romeo and Juliet is perhaps the most famous love story of all time and a large part of that is that they were both so young, rash and impulsive. If they were older the story would be missing that crucial element and perhaps have an entirely different ending.

Anonymous said...

i can see JM's point. however as a 14 year old girl who's just played Juliet, i find the accusation that someone my age can't adequately play juliet a tad insulting. I did mountains of research preparing for the role.

Anonymous said...

to Dana about it not being about physical attraction: i realize whole silioquy to juliet at her balcony is a big display of love and all, but it's also romeo musing on juliet's chastity. so i definitely think it's a love story, but romeo definitely has physical and sexual attraction to her as well.

JM said...

To our 14 year old Juliet. First of all, congrats on doing the role! And the work you say you put into it is truly admirable. But I think yours is a gut reaction without the qualifiers. I think I understand it --let me explain.
Here's my experience with it:
I've done the play three times, directed and edited it for performance once, and conducted a master class for a high school in-rehearsal cast. I said I'd never MET someone that age capable of playing those roles and I meant professionally. (Although the high school Juliet was pretty darned terrific in the role, I don't seriously think she was ready for RSC next day, if you know what I mean.) I've also edited and directed Shakespeare for 5th graders. And some were really great, relatively speaking. But I wouldn't have cast any in the professional production I directed.
This doesn't mean it's not possible that there's some acting genius out there your age who could play the role up to standards demanded professionally. I just haven't met them yet. College age and older actors many times have a lot of difficulty with Shakespeare's great poetic roles. In my experience this has been the rule rather than the exception.
I hope you had a great experience with the role. And once again, congratulations on your accomplishment. It's something to be proud of no matter where you did it, or however old you might be.

Abbie said...

I personally don't think that paedophilia had anything to do with Romeo and Juliet as in the time it was written there was no legal age of consent, and most girls had to get married and bare children so young because their life expectancy was so much shorter, a 13 year old girl was probably classed as middle aged!!

I would say Juliet is 13, as the nurse comes out and says it, but Romeo is more complex to age, as in some ways he shows that characteristics of a 15 year old boy, falling in love with one girl an then another, but then again the amount of anger and violence he can sometimes portray makes me want to say 17 or 18.

But I think they mystery of Romeos age makes him an even more intriguing character.

But to suggest paedophilia in this is absurd, obviously all opinions matter, but I think people must consider the time this was written and the great changes that have happened since, both in law and society.

Anonymous said...

I am in grade 9, and am currently studying Romeo and Juliet. I like to think that Romeo is around 16-17 because it does mention in Act I Scene III, by the nurse that Juliet is turning 14 in two weeks and odd days.

I think a relationship (in those days) with someone about 14 and someone around 17 would be considerably okay. I also think Shakespeare didn't mention the age because it wasn't as much of an issue as for the fact that the Capulets and the Montagues hate each other and all of a sudden their children fall in love.

I also think (because in my eyes Romeo is about 17) that Paris would be a few years older than Romeo. Paris seems to be more concerned with marrying and being happy with Juliet while Romeo (in the balcony scene) is more interested in sex above anything else.

If R&J took place in modern times I think the only realistic way of working through it and having it make sense would be to have Juliet in grade 9 and have Romeo in grade 12. That way you could still have Juliet as the very self confident girl she is and still have Romeo confused and have the thought of sex running through his mind constantly.

Just thought I'd give some input!

Anonymous said...

Let us go along with Shakespeare's words. Juillet as we all know, was stated to be the age of 13, and Romeo was at least old enough to be considered a man hence the challenge from Tybalt and capable of killing Paris in a duel, people back then wouldn't challenge children to a duel, and at the time, the age of manhood would be 21.

Duane said...

Thinking of Romeo as 21 fundamentally changes the play into something that might as well be called Juliet, because then Romeo becomes just another adult manipulating Juliet's life for her. It's vital to the story that they are both essentially children, doing naive things because they don't know any better and because the adults in their lives aren't there to stop them.

Re the duel, have you considered that Tybalt as well is the same age as Romeo? They are children who are *acting* like grown ups. Tybalt doesn't have Lord Capulet standing behind him, acknowleding the duel. He finds Romeo in the street. He's doing what he thinks a grown up is supposed to do.

Anonymous said...

It is clearly stated that Juliet is 13, almost 14. (I believe that's Act I, Scene III.) However, Romeo's age is considerably more difficult to assign.

Firstly, it was not uncommon in those times for women in their early teens marry men years, even decades older than themselves. Juliet being 13, and falling in love with a man many years her senior would not have been a scandalous thing back then. I don't necessarily assert that Romeo was many years Juliet's senior, just that it's possible, even probable, and would not have caused discontent among the audience of the time period.

As to Juliet's having been around 18 in Brooke's work, it has been speculated that Shakespeare changed her age so that it would (nearly)fit the number of lines in a sonnet. I haven't researched that particular standpoint enough to express much of an opinion, but I will say this: I think that Shakespeare aged Juliet so young to create a few juxtapositions. The first: Juliet is younger than all of the other main characters, yet she is by far the most mature. She sees past the long-standing feud of the two families, so that she can love the man that she loves. But it is this, the very essence of her maturity, that makes her incredibly selfish. It seems likely that the relationship between Romeo and Juliet was more lust and youthful infatuation than real love; more the two reaching out to one another and forming a desperate, rebellious bond, as a means of gaining an outlet for the frustration created be the tension and isolation between their two families.

I say this mainly because I don't think it likely that a girl my age would fall in love, real love, especially with someone so much older than her.




The second juxtaposition is this: while all around them hate, Romeo and Juliet love. It is their youth and their opposition to the people and environment around them that makes them such an alluring object of focus. The fact that they turn away from the driving ides of their families attracts the part of us that recognizes love as being superior to hate. That is also why we want their love to be real and to make life happy for them, and why their death is so heart-wrenchingly romantic.





Also, I believe that Romeo's age is not specified because the real focus is Juliet. Romeo is the personification of Juliet's need for a release from the frustration and isolation between their two families. While, in the text, Romeo is a flesh-and-blood character, in concept he is a means of escape for young Juliet. This further highlights the emotional juxtapositions between Juliet and her family.


I would, as a side note, like to point out that a pedophile is by definition someone 16 or older, whose primary sexual attraction is to children 12/13 or younger.



I would also like to point out that I know next to nothing of R&J, Shakespeare, or presenting an argument :) I'm just a kid who wanted to put in her two cents.

Thanks,

-I

Anonymous said...

Okay, I just think that everyone posting stuff about juliet's age and romeo's age is just ruining a wonderful beloved story about starcrossed lovers. It doesn't need dragging through with a fine tooth comb and the only way we are gunna settle this, is just to leave it! It is a beautiful story and there is no need for it to be criticised because a thirteen year old girl is very mature for her age, and the guy who wrote wasn't very clear about the boys age. Maybe thats how it was meant to be? isn't that like the beauty of it? do not diss R&J!

Anonymous said...

I would say that Romeo is in his late teens as it is very easy to picture him, as a sorry for himself teenager, I would also suggest that you read the play picturing him as a relatively emo-ish character.

BENvolio said...

Are you joking R&J is not a romance it is mainly about sex, death and violence... just written in a witty and intelligent style.

BENvolio said...

Are you joking R&J is not a romance it is mainly about sex, death and violence... just written in a witty and intelligent style.

BENvolio said...

If you don't agree with me reread it.e

Anonymous said...

Shakespeare never told us the age of Romeo. Therefore, why name him a age at all?

Anon said...

I think Romeo's age is abstract and left as a mystery because it sparks the imagination of the reader, and captures them, even captivating them to want to analyse deeper, even though the detail wasn't the most important.

Another reason I believe this to be the case is because his age didn't matter to Juliet. Her love had no boundaries and it wouldn't matter to her if he was 30 because she loved him so much that she died for him.

Also in Shakespeare's day, in England, marriages were usually arranged and the girls were 'matured' by about 12 though it wasn't unusual for a girl as young as 9 to marry someone of 40. In our day that is a sick thought, but it there it was the custom and tradition.

But as I was saying, for Juliet, love was blind. The same could be said for Romeo.
When you are really in love, things like age fade into the background- because love knows no limits and your heart determines they're the one.
In my opinion the tragedy does centre on Juliet.
She needs a release and she has a lot of love to give, because her family were too overprotective of her and never really showed their 'love' for her. In fact her closest friend was her nurse and that shows how distant she was from her family.

I think both Romeo and Juliet were caught up in their love; the consequences wouldn't matter because whatever happened, they would have each other- even to the death.

Shakespeare focuses very much on love, but also on heartbreak and how love, never really seems to work out quite how you dream. That is the cultural, classic and timeless beauty of his writings.

Anonymous said...

aggree with the last comment, love can happen to any age. About age differences right or wrong depends on the tradition and norm at certain place and time. My students age of 11 and 12 in love like R n J, talk about they would die if their parents ever tried to seperate them. We parents think that they're too young to fall in love... hei, love is bless that can happen to anyone... we just need to guide them so that they won't end up like R n J or being used by phedophilia,

Anonymous said...

R&j is not a love story. Its the story of a 13year old and a 17(ish) year old that led 2 the deaths of 6 people - the end.

Jenny said...

Hey, I'm almost 15 and I just randombly came across this blog. I was searching for Romeo and Juliet's age because I recently finished reading it. This might sound stupid, but I just finished watching "Letters to Juliet" a second ago and Claire was only 15 when she fell in love with Lorenzo, so I wondered if it is possible to fall in such a deep love at a young age, just like Romeo and Juliet did. I'm just curious, but does any of you think that kind of love can happen these days? I don't know what to think since people these days have changed so much and you don't see that kinda love anymore.
If anyone could answer I would appreciate it, thanks :)

SionD Wills said...

I think that Romeo's age is anonymous because shakespeare wanted men in the audience to relate to him. Like now, most women prefer to watch a romantic film than most men. So in order to get the men's attention he made it so that most men could relate to Romeo. As for Juliet she is 13, almost 14. To me Romeo is about 16, this way its not a weird thing that they marry. Hope this makes sense.

P.S I'm 14, and I'm doing Romeo and Juliet in school. Sorry if my language isn't very mature, Welsh is my first language. :D

Anonymous said...

I think that Romeo's age is anonymous because Shakespeare wanted for most men to relate to him. By making Romeo ageless, it made most men to relate to him. If he'd made him a certain age maybe the men watching the play wouldn't relate too him as much and think he's too young or too old. The reason Juliet has an age is that, like now, mostly women like romantic films. As for Juliet's age, she's 13 almost 14. In my mind Romeo is about 15/16, this way it wouldn't be as weird for them to love each other. Hope this makes sense.

P.S I'm 14 and doing Romeo and Juliet in school, also my first language is Welsh :D

Anonymous said...

Lmao people are talking about fictional people they never existed and if we look at the past The French Napoleonic code provided the legal context in 1791 when it established an age of consent of 11 years. The age of consent, which applied to boys as well as girls, was increased to 13 years in 1863. Like France, many other countries, increased the age of consent to 13 in the 19th century. Nations, such as Portugal, Spain, Denmark and the Swiss cantons, that adopted or mirrored the Napoleonic code likewise initially set the age of consent at 10-12 years and then raised it to between 13 and 16 years in the second half of the 19th century. In modern times legal age in most countries is 16 believe it or not. Now enjoy the classic without involving age even if romeo was 49 y/o pervert and Juliet a 16 y/o the true moral of the story is love is timeless and never ending.

Anonymous said...

Oh this is fun! Okay, I think Zeffirelli has it right in his 1968 film. We must remember, Juliet falls madly in love with Romeo on sight...how old can he be? He must be about her age. Tybalt refers to Romeo as "Thou wretched boy". Romeo is in his teens too. I would like to think his behavior would define his age, but alas, there are too many examples of such behavior in much older individuals...Billy the Kid, the OK corral, and, I believe the Hatfields and McCoys have a R&J story as well.
To the pediphilia discussion, don't be silly. Remember, her father is 'arranging' a respectable marriage for her. Clearly, she, at fourteen (her birthday being so close we can say that), is deemed of marriageable age...and thereby an adult.

JM said...

"To the pediphilia discussion, don't be silly."

--Well of course.

Lady Capulet (to Juliet):

Well, thinke of marriage now: younger than you,
Here in Verona, Ladies of esteeme,
Are made already Mothers. By my count,
I was your Mother much upon these years
That you are now a Maide,

--When all else fails, look at the Text. "...Ladies of esteem,/Are already made Mothers..." "I was already YOUR mother before this age you are now"--DUH.
Of course, looking at the text *first* eliminates the need for lots of extraneous and ridiculous editorializing about pedophilia. Clearly, Romeo's age (and hence, moralizing about pedophilia issues) is not important to Shakespeare--AT ALL; obviously then, not important to his audience.
Our own sense of historical self-importance seems to precede us; particularly re: eras about which we can have absolutely no sense of experience.

Anonymous said...

Here's my contribution:

I think Shakespeare was right in leaving Romeo's age a blank, because it would be a little hypocritical to have all of that 'what's in a name' and then go and emphasise an age difference, but then he wouldn't them to have a very similar age either, because there was some intention of making Juliet seem as mature as possible, and having her younger, yet more abstractly thinking than everyone else was the best way of doing this. Also, it is not really our place to speculate, as (a) that is probably the opposite of what Shakespeare wanted, (b) we are not in Shakespearean times, and will always instinctively try to moderate the age so as to seem 'normal', by our standards anyway, though it might be very far off what people in his time would have imagined. If nothing else, there is the fact that he shows varying degrees of maturity, and as such is probably more of a concept, or a vessel for representation purposes in flesh and blood form, than a character with no other purpose than to exist and be part of the story.

Sorry if that didn't make much sense, but that is my perspective on things, and being just fourteen myself, I credit myself with thinking it is possible for a teenager to be that mature.

Anonymous said...

I was reading through the comments, and I saw one I needed to reply to. Like most of the other people posting comments here, I'm in grade 9, and we are reading R&J. I agree with the above statement that Romeo would probably be 21. That was how I was always told, and it just seems the most likely to me. However, I have to disagree with the statement that Romeo would just be another adult manipulating Juliet's life. Yes, he would physically be an adult at 21, I have no doubts about that, but MENTALLY? Remember, it isn't his appearance his actions are showing us, but his personality. I have an uncle who is in his late 30s, and he still acts like a teenager. I also have a friend who is 14, and she acts like a mature adult. So, really, we can't even use his actions as a way of estimating his age.

Kira x Charles said...

hey there, i am 18 years old, and my girl friend is 14 years and matured for age.
love does not have an age guys.
I feel like I love my girl like noone else can love a person.
she's my soulmate i cant live without her. i was 17 and she was 13 when we first saw each other, and it was love in one second view. we have always been refeerin our love to R&J..
There are so many obstacles and laws and bull shit.. that doesnt even seem right. We are all just bein manipulated by everyone arround us. so many people tellin us that our love is wrong.
i just say that people can say whatever they want i dont really care anymore, I just think its wrong when they are judging and havent ever been in same situation.


I've been reading R&J and it obvious that Juliett is a matured 13 years old.
How Romeo act reckless and his stupidity sounds like his beein at my age, 17-18.
i was done with my puberty when i was 15-16. but my facial hair havent growin for real yet.
Humans aint same, noone of us is, will never be.

and yerr sorry for my english grammar.. my only excuse is im from Norway.. and not a smart kid..

Kira x Charles said...

hey there, i am 18 years old, and my girl friend is 14 years and matured for age.
love does not have an age guys.
I feel like I love my girl like noone else can love a person.
she's my soulmate i cant live without her. i was 17 and she was 13 when we first saw each other, and it was love in one second view. we have always been refeerin our love to R&J..
There are so many obstacles and laws and bull shit.. that doesnt even seem right. We are all just bein manipulated by everyone arround us. so many people tellin us that our love is wrong.
i just say that people can say whatever they want i dont really care anymore, I just think its wrong when they are judging and havent ever been in same situation.


I've been reading R&J and it obvious that Juliett is a matured 13 years old.
How Romeo act reckless and his stupidity sounds like his beein at my age, 17-18.
i was done with my puberty when i was 15-16. but my facial hair havent growin for real yet.
Humans aint same, noone of us is, will never be.

and yerr sorry for my english grammar.. my only excuse is im from Norway.. and not a smart kid..

Desuke said...

People have to remember that this was written during a time when a twelve year old girl could be married to a man twenty years her senior. If you completely ignore Juliet, and just study the way 'the boys' behave, it's pretty obvious that Romeo is not fifteen/sixteen. I know this play like the back of my hand (not to say that my opinion is law, just that it is an educated one made over many years of in-depth knowledge of the text) and I would peg Romeo at about eighteen or nineteen, Mercutio and Tybalt at around twenty two, and Paris at around twenty three or twenty four. It's not creepy, it's just the way things were back then.

Anonymous said...

It is clearly stated that juliet is 13, and I would think romeo would be between 17 and 20, because he was old enough to defend his fathers house bt young enough thay as the only son of a wealthy man was yet unmarried and had nt yet began to produce an heir

Ralph said...

I wonder why there are so many comments questioning the age of Juliet, when her age is clearly specified in the play? Have those people not read R&J?

Regarding the age of Romeo, I'd guess he was somewhere between 16-18, first, because he was too young to have a beard and was still living with his family (so he was not yet considered a full adult), yet was old enough to duel, or at least willing to do so.

Finally, to all the stupid statements about pedophilia, I'd like to highlight that you cannot view a XVI-century play with today's eyes - pedophilia is a very modern concept, and at that time a 13-year old was of marriageable age.

From Wikipedia (on marriageable age): 'For example, Mary Hathaway (Virginia, 1689) was only 9 when she was married to William Williams. Sir Edward Coke (England, 17th century) made it clear that "the marriage of girls under 12 was normal, and the age at which a girl who was a wife was eligible for a dower from her husband's estate was 9 even though her husband be only four years old." '

It is stupid to try to impose modern assumptions on societies of 4 centuries ago. In any case, just for information about modern marriage laws (in the US!):

- Minnesota: Applicants under the age of 15 needs the written consent of a parent or guardian and the consent of a juvenile court judge.

- Missouri: A person under age 15 cannot marry without approval of a judge in the county where the marriage license is sought.

- New Hampshire: A female between the age of 13 and 17 years and a male between the age of 14 and 17 years can be married only with the permission of their parent (guardian) and a waiver.

- South Carolina: The minimum age for a female is 15 (13 if she is pregnant , has a physician's statement verifying same, and the consent of her parents) and it is 16 for a male.

- New York: If either applicant is 14 or 15 years of age, such applicant(s) must present the written consent of both parents and a justice of the Supreme Court or a judge of the Family Court having jurisdiction over the town or city in which the application is made.

Does this mean that the US has laws that promote pedophilia? I think not...

Anonymous said...

Who cares how old they are? They were in love, that was "shakie's" point!. You can't put a boundary on love. I have found my soulmate but due to laws must wait a few years. Love is limitless. Look at most of you're parents.. The ages of parents range from a few years to atleast 10! Just because Romeo and Juliet found themselves during their teenage years doesnt mean we should put a damper on their situation. It's all about LOVE!

Rebecca said...

I think talking about pedophilia would be a little off! Bear in mind that Shakespeare wrote this at a time when 13 was the normal age to be looking for a suitor, who would be much older than Romeo was (i.e. Paris). It is said directly in the play that Juliet is to be fourteen so we know for sure she is 13, and I would say that Romeo is meant to be maybe 16-18, not older as I think his youth stresses the lovers naivety in the whole situation. It is not a true love story in my eyes, but more a story of the dangers of a rash and naive infatuation.

Anonymous said...

the concern people are having is that by today's standards we are allowing the government to tell us what is and isn't morally right...It was not uncommon for a girl 13 to marry a 20 year old in that era...but today we are told this is sick behavior...castrate the guy...the thing is both people still have the same attractions but we are told it is perverted now....so I guess God was perverted when he thought it okay to have MARY pregnant at 12....NO NO NO .....Mankinds views has told us to think it is wrong but nature has it that any other animal has sex when they are of physical age to do so.....bible says if we pass the flowering age(puberty) to marry rather than burn....so better to marry at 12-13 then to sin....but society calls this sick who is right? God(bible) or man?

Tam said...

Im not convinced that R+J was written by Shakespeare and not Christopher Marlowe.

There are distinct differences in the writing style and syntax used in R+J and Shakespeare's other plays, as well as a distinct move away from his normal writing idiom, which had tended to be historically or classically based (as was the case with julius caeser, richard the 3rd, macbeth, troilus and cressida et al) which all had some historical basis to the original plot, whereas, R+J seems to be based on other contemporary original stories.

There are subtle clues to Romeo's age in the text, but nothing absolute, so it again, is down to reading the clues and interpreting it for yourself.

Whether this was by design, or the writer (whether it be Shakespeare or Marlowe) edited the scene where it was mentioned or made clear is again, open to interpretation, and probably will never be known.

Anyway, just thought i would throw that out there for your consideration, it doesnt change the play one little bit whoever it is attributed to, it is still a literary classic, and it is a clasic for a reason.