Did Romeo & Juliet produce youth culture?

Marjorie Garber:

So it is that Romeo and Juliet, that “immature,” “fresh,” “pure,” and “early” work, both anticipates and responds to what sociologists and cultural analysts have come to call “youth cultureand “youth subculture.” It may be too strong a claim to say that Romeo and Juliet has produced youth culture, but nonetheless the composite idea Romeo-and-Juliet does function, today, as a recognizable signifier: a signifier of young love, obstructed passion, “star-crossed lovers” (one cannot improve upon Shakespeare, that master modernist), parents who just-don’t-understand, peer groups who exert what we now so easily call “peer pressure.”

* * *

Shakespeare’s plays are constantly aware of the “argument of Time,” from Falstaff’s “They hate us youth” (Henry IV, Part 2) uttered by that eternal optimist at the age of sixty, to Feste’s “Youth’s a stuff will not endure” (Twelfth Night), to Edgar’s “We that are young / Shall never see so much, nor live so long” (King Lear). But Romeo and Juliet live short, not long. It is the brevity and compression of their story, the impressionistic sense that their lives, and not only the play that bears their names, constitute a “two hours’ traffic” that has made this tragedy about untimely love so poignant, so “modern,” and so timely.

– “Romeo and Juliet: The Untimeliness of Youth” in Shakespeare and Modern Culture


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