Romeo and Juliet

by: William Shakespeare

Five Key Questions

2) Is Juliet too young to get married?

In Act I, scene iii, we learn that Juliet will turn fourteen in a little more than two weeks, meaning that she’s thirteen during the events of the play. Legally, girls in Elizabethan England could marry as young as 12 with parental consent. Marriage at such a young age was, however, unusual, as indicated by the Capulets’ disagreement about whether Juliet is old enough to get married. Lady Capulet clearly indicates her belief Juliet has reached a marriageable age when she tells the Nurse, “my daughter’s of a pretty age” (I.iii.11), meaning both a pleasing age and an age when she can now be considered an adult. Lord Capulet, however, seems less sure. When discussing the proposal with Paris, Juliet’s father insists, “My child is yet a stranger in the world” (I.ii.8). He further expresses concern that “too soon marred are those so early made” (I.ii.13), meaning that early marriage can ruin a young woman. Although Lord Capulet changes his mind later, his wavering on the matter indicates the lack of a clear answer as to whether or not Juliet is old enough for marriage.