Romeo and Juliet

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The balcony scene as imagined by Sir Frank Dicksee. 1884 oil painting.

Romeo and Juliet is a classic work of Shakespeare. It serves as a historical example of controversial love with a tragic ending rooted in the anguish the lovers feel at one another's loss.

In the story, it is said that Juliet's 14th birthday is approaching, so we know that she is still 13. Romeo's age is not explicitly stated, but we know that he is older than Juliet while still a youth, so he can be as young as 15 or as old as 25 or more. It is generally agreed that he is in his late teens or early twenties. If Romeo is not underage, that would make their romance illegal or below the Age of Consent in most modern ('Western') jurisdictions.

Legal reference

The term Romeo and Juliet exemption is used in law sometimes to refer to exemptions to statutory rape prosecution based on closeness in age between 'victim' and 'perpetrator'. Such exemptions do not apply in all jurisdictions by any means.

Some writers such as Germaine Greer point out that Romeo's exact age can not be determined from the literary work, so the relationship may well have fallen foul of any modern laws so described.