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Are Romeo and Juliet Really Mature? The In-FACT-tuations Suggest Otherwise

Based on our readings so far, do you agree or disagree that Romeo and Juliet’s relationship is one of “‘infatuated children’ engaging in ‘puppy love’”? Why or why not? Provide at least two pieces of textual evidence.

Romeo and Juliet’s relationship through Act 1 and 2 is little more than that of two inexperienced, infatuated teens. When Romeo sees Juliet for the first time at Capulet’s party, he boldly declares that “I ne’er saw true beauty till this night” (1.5.153). His statement would be insignificant if Juliet was truly the first person he loved, but Romeo has just spent the near-entirety of Act 1 admiring another girl, Rosaline. His complete shift from eyeing one girl to another does not display maturity, but rather, informs the reader that he may simply be attracted to a girl’s beauty and nothing else. As for Juliet, she originally has some reservations about love, stating to Romeo that “I have no joy of this contract to-night. It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden […] This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath, May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet” (2.1.117-118, 121-122). However, in a manner of moments, she tells Romeo that “If that thy bent of love be honourable, Thy purpose marriage, send me word to-morrow” (2.1.143-144). Her initial coolness to rushed love pushes her to slow Romeo’s advances, as she believes that love must develop and mature like a flower. Juliet is clearly the more prudent of the two lovers, and wants to ensure that she actually is in love before beginning a longer relationship. However, after a few more gestures of affection and passion, she quickly tells Romeo to propose marriage to show his love for her. It seems as if the youthful, impulsive side of Juliet has always been inside her, and is now prevailing and controlling her decisions. Even Juliet, a very careful and thoughtful youth, succumbs to passion and desire before thinking and reason. Although Romeo and Juliet’s love does prove in later acts to be more than just ‘puppy love’, their initial impressions of each other seem to suggest otherwise.

 

To what extent is Kulich’s argument that Romeo and Juliet should not be viewed as children effective, or even historically accurate?

Jindra Kulich’s argument cannot be seen as factually and historically correct. Kulich is unclear on what defines an ‘adult’, originally stating that when he was 14 in the 1940’s, he had to “go to work and assume [my] responsibilities”. However, back in the early 1600’s in Italy, schooling was not compulsory at all, and therefore cannot be even considered as a factor in determining adulthood. Considering Romeo and Juliet’s extremely privileged upbringing, they probably would have been schooled by the best tutors in Verona, and would still be learning about various customs and ways of life at their age. One possible factor in determining adulthood is the age of marriage, as the married couple would then have to assume much larger responsibilities in their household. In 1619, the average marriage age was 26 for men, and 23 for men. Both ages are ten years older than Romeo and Juliet are, respectively. In terms of physical maturity, most children’s puberty came “two or three years later than it does today” according to a paper published by the University of Victoria (“The Age of Marriage”). This means that that it is entirely possible that Juliet had not even started to physically mature yet – she is still referred to as a “child” by her own father, further reinforcing the notion of her youthfulness (1.2.8). Since Romeo seems to play a miniscule role in his family’s functioning life, and doesn’t even defend his house in the civil brawl at the start of the play, it is a stretch to believe that he could really be considered an adult. Through analyzing various factors, such as age of marriage and age of physical maturity in the 1600’s, and various moments in the play, it is difficult to agree with Kulich’s argument.

 

Bibliography:

http://www.fps.chuo-u.ac.jp/e/JJPC/jjpc_vol19_05.pdf

http://2013.playingshakespeare.org/generation-gap.html

http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/Library/SLT/society/family/marriage.html#juliet

http://www.allempires.com/article/index.php?q=literacy_education_later_medieval_italian_laity

 

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