Until the 1900s women were forced to be of ownership to men, and men were to only work and marry, this seems insane to us now, but this was norm back then and it affected many teens in the process, including Romeo and Juliet. Women and men in the 1600s had extremely high expectations set. For example, many women were supposed to be married and have kids at an age of about 12 or 13, and men’s expectations were to be emotionally stable, work hard, and be married, to have kids. These expectations normally put pressure on people of this time period, and it caused them to make bad decisions. Romeo and Juliet’s parents pushed gender expectations, which led to bad decisions and ultimately death.
Gender expectations in the 1600 were highly punishing for many teens girls. Parents were always on their children about getting married and creating a life for themselves. In Romeo and Juliet, we see many examples of this and how it affected their many decisions they made. “Gender Roles in Colonial America” says, “By the age of thirteen, girls were expected to share in all the tasks of adult women” (Smith). Women in the 1600’s had no importance, but to get married and have kids. Even while they were fulfilling their duty, at the time, they were still owned by their father or husband, so they never lived their own life.
A scene in Romeo and Juliet reads, “An you be mine, Ill give you to my friend. An you not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets…” (Shakespeare). Juliet’s father told her, if she got married she could stay under his roof, but if she doesn’t get married the next day, she needed to die and get out of his house, proving the expectations set on young women in the 1600’s.
Not only did the expectations affect teen girls, many boys were also affected. Romeo was constantly being pushed to man up, and get married, because he was told it wasn’t about love, and that it was all about sex. A scene in Romeo and Juliet says, “She’ll not be hit with Cupids arrow. She hath Dian’s wit. And, in strong proof of chastity well armed from love’s weak childish bow, she lives uncharmed” (Shakespeare). Romeo was telling his friends how his love was to be a virgin forever, and his friends tell him to move on, because if she doesn’t have sex, she isn’t worth it. These were the times of expectations set on men back then. Another site says, “men were expected to rule over their wives, and all property belonged to the husband” (Clive Emsley). Men were shown to be the owners of women, and to always be strong and powerful, this had a major impact when teens were pressured by their parents to constantly be held to the expectations.
Romeo made many dumb choices in the play Romeo and Juliet, due to the pressure set on him, because of the gender expectations. In the play, Romeo and Juliet, it is shown how Romeo is in love with Rosaline, but within 4 days he has fell in love with another girl and died. This hastiness of moving on was due to Rosaline’s vow to be a nun, and because of this Romeo could not have sex if he was with her. The abnormal vow to never have sex was not the normal gender expectation back then, causing Romeo to move on quickly.
The text, Nature vs Nurture states, “ …behavior is shaped through positive or negative reinforcements…” (Mallari). Romeo’s negative reinforcement was his multiple friends, and they forced his mind to be quickly changed by telling him he needed to move on, because Rosaline was going to be a virgin forever. Romeo also contributed to his death by choosing to go to the Capulet party when he knew it was wrong. Romeo and Juliet says, “…With this nights revels, and expire the term… On lusty gentlemen” (Shakespeare) Romeo shows how he knows going to the party will hurt him, but he continues to go anyways, which is another horrible decision’s on Romeos part.
While Romeo made many bad decisions, regarding his life, Juliet wasn’t the brightest either. Juliet chooses on multiple occasions to continue on with her love life with Romeo, when she knows it’s wrong. Juliet in Romeo and Juliet says, “ Its too rash, too unadvised, too sudden…” (Shakespeare). Juliet knows that’s this decision to marry Romeo is too fast, but she continues with the marriage, possibly because she knows her time to get married is running out, due to the expected age to get married in the 1600’s.
In another instance when Juliet was being forced to marry Paris, and instead on running out of town with Romeo, or simply refusing to marry Paris, she drinks a sketchy drink from the Father. Juliet says, “Give me, give me! O, tell me not of fear” (Shakespeare). Juliet tells father her to give her the vial, so she could pretend to kill herself, not even thinking about the possible effects of this un-foolproof plan. This decision of hers was possibly caused by her impatience to marry Romeo, because of her expected age to be married.
Even though the pressure from thier peers, because of the gender expectations led to these bad decisions Romeo and Juliet made, it is also arguable that teenage brains led to Romeo and Juliet’s death. An article on teenage brain states, “…heightened impatience among teenagers is because of disregard for future…” (Osborne). Romeo and Juliet were both expected to be married at the age they were at back then, so they immediately threw away their future for each other. This is proven to happen in teens, because of their impulsive brains. Studies also show that, “…teens are motivated by immediate reward…” (Osborne). Teens impulsive brain, lead them to be motivated to do things faster, and get them done to get their reward. Romeo and Juliet’s immediate reward was to be married to each other, and be able to have sex and have children. The psychoanalytic theory of teen brain provides good reasons as to why Romeo and Juliet made these decisions, but pressure from gender expectations were the biggest influencers of these decisions.
Expectations in the 1600’s were rough for teens, Romeo and Juliet got the worst of these expectations. These expectations caused Romeo and Juliet to feel pressured by their parents to get married and have kids as soon as possible. These gender expectations caused Romeo and Juliet to make bad decisions that hurt them in the end.