William Shakespeare and naughty schoolgirls

One of the plays at next year’s recently announced World Shakespeare Festival is Romeo and Juliet. No real surprise there; it’s one of Shakespeare’s most famous works. But, forced to read it again the other day in order to do help with my daughter’s homework, what did surprise me was Juliet’s age. I’d forgotten that she’s only 13.

Just the way they did things back then? Apparently not. The average marriage age in Shakespeare’s time was the mid-twenties, about the same as it is today. Also, Shakespeare’s source material had Juliet pegged as 16.

Not nearly young enough, old Will must have thought and in terms of dramatic effect, he must have been right.

Maybe you are meant to be brutally shocked by Juliet’s age as much as dazzled by her feisty charms and take away the lesson that teenagers need locking up for their own good. Look what chaos they caused in the riots, for instance. That’s what I told my daughter, also 13, anyway. She’s going to ask her mum to help next time. Result.