Romeo and Juliet (was F&H and Austen)

Jon Noble jon_p_noble at
Sun Jan 12 18:35:49 EST 2003

--- Anna Z Skarzynska <theania at> wrote:
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Katarina Hjärpe <head_overheels at>

> >I think Juliet was "not yet fourteen", wasn't she?
> On the other hand, Romeo was probably somewhere
> around there too. At least
> he acts like it. :-)
> Katta
> Many nearly-men of that age do; I speak as a mother
> of a 15 yo son.
> I remember reading Barbara Tuchman's 'A Distant
> Mirror: the calamitous 14th
> century', in which the author points out that
> childhood ended a lot earlier
> in those days, and many momentous and world-changing
> decisions were taken by
> those whom we would now consider mere children, who
> had ended up in
> positions of power.
> Ania

I remember reading an interpretation of Romeo & Juliet
which suggested that in Shakespeare's day audiences
would have had no sympathy of R or J, regarding them
as irresponsibly young. Although people were
considered adult in their teens they didn't marry then
(except in very wealthy families), instead they went
off and worked for ten years so they could afford to
marry (both boys and girls), most children were born
when their parents were in their late twenties. This
interpretation suggested that the theme of the play
was actually the foolishness of young love and the
irresponsibility of people of that age. One very
interesting book about social conditions in Tudor and
Stuart England is Peter Laslett's "The world we have
lost".  I was amazed to discover just how small the
gentry in England actually were, only a couple of
thousand families tops. No wonder every one in Jane
Austin either knows everyone else or knows someone who
does - it really was like that.

Jon Noble

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