Although 420 years have passed since Shakespeare’s teenagers, Romeo and Juliet, first captured the hearts of audiences, have teenagers really changed? Although society has evolved, the rebellious teenage spirit and desire for love have stayed through it all.
Firstly, there may be hundreds of years between the two generations, but views of love are virtually the same in modern day teenagers as they were in the eyes of the two star-cross’d lovers. Often, “love” is based on looks alone, which we see when Romeo first lays eyes on Juliet. He declares her a true beauty, asking himself if his heart "did love 'til then?" Romeo isn’t in love with Juliet, he’s merely infatuated. Teens today act in similar ways, often declaring they’re in love with someone before even exchanging words with the person. Secondly, that rebellious nature that burned bright in Renaissance teens is still alive today. Over four centuries ago, the rebel in teenagers shone through, especially when we see Juliet stand up to her father and refuse to marry Paris. Today’s teens may not have such life-changing decisions in front of them, but many will rebel against curfew and chores, or attend a party they were instructed to stay away from. Finally, there’s nothing a teenager enjoys more than a dirty joke or a crass pun, whether they lived in 1595 or today. As displayed in Shakespeare’s play, Mercutio often toyed with words to give them a dirty meaning, just as you’d see if you walked into almost any high school today.
Even with all of the similarities, there are some monumental differences, between the teenage Romeo and Juliet and teenagers today. For starters, language has greatly changed over the course of 400-plus years. During Romeo and Juliet’s time, words were spoken much more formally and respectfully, as we see when Juliet refers to her mother as “Madam.” Today, however, vocabulary is limited and not very intelligent. Grammar is often used improperly, as well as everyday words. A second difference between the two times is communication. During Romeo and Juliet’s time, people communicated either face-to-face or through letters. Today, however, we have cell phones and social media, allowing us to call, text and FaceTime, just to name a few. The final difference is marriage. In the late 1500s, people married in their early teenage years, often in an arranged marriage that was looked upon as a business transaction. Love was not something often taken into account. The ceremony of matrimony was a way to show social class and keep one’s family status strong. Today, people base their marriages upon love and often don’t marry until their mid-to-late twenties and early thirties.
The reasons why these similarities and differences are found is simple. The similarities are all internal, all emotions. The differences are all on the outside, influenced by society and evolving times. If you stripped away time and trends, the teenage Romeo and Juliet and their modern-day counterparts would be very much alike.
Teenagers haven’t necessarily changed in the 420 years since Shakespeare’s lovers Romeo and Juliet captured the hearts of audiences with their woeful tale. The ways we communicate, travel and marry may have been altered, but we’re all still the same at heart.