The amount of change between Shakespeare’s era to the present is practically unimaginable. The status women receive now compared to back then has changed immensely; from being seen as objects meant to carry men’s children to being lawyers, doctors, CEO’s, etc. It can also be seen in males as they are now allowed to express more emotion than before. Gender expectations are vastly different from Shakespeare’s time to now; since times have changed, especially for life expectancy, a lot of things acceptable back then would be completely outrageous now, and vice versa. Overall this leads to children engaging in risky behavior and vile humor.
One of the biggest differences in gender expectations from Shakespeare’s era to now is at what age should people marry. As seen in Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet”, Capulet is having a discussion with Paris. He wants to marry his daughter (Juliet) but the mother claims it is too early as she is only 14, however she can be married in two summer which would still put her at the young age of 16. Paris then states that girl’s younger than her marry (Shakespeare). This is insane because they are basically still children at this point.
They don’t fully understand much of anything yet and their teenage brains are nowhere close to being fully developed. It just doesn’t seem right making children marry and be forced upon being an adult as they are not. In an article by: “World Economic Forum”, it shows ages people are getting married on average around the world (as of 2016). In the United States, the average age men marry is 29.5 years, women being a little shorter at 27.4 years. This is more than double the age kids were married in Shakespeare’s time. Even though marriage ages vary widely across the globe – with a lot of underlying reasons, this still shows the world is not forcing kids to marry young (Buchholz). While this can be seen as late in relation to other parts of the world, it is still better than marrying before you are ready. Marrying as young as 13 might have been seen normal during Shakespeare’s time period but it was just too early for the kids.
As well as getting married, young there would be the prediction that they are also having children at a young age: and that’s correct. As seen again from Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet” during act one scene three, the Nurse, Lady Capulet, and Juliet are talking. Juliet’s parents want her to marry Paris and while having the discussion Lady Capulet mentions that she was already Juliet’s mother when she was her age (13) and that Juliet remains a virgin. This is a very young age to be engaging in these risky behaviors let alone being encouraged to do so by your parents. In a study done by: “Teen Vogue’ the average age males begin engaging in this risky behavior at age 16.9 while females are a little later at 17.2 years old. As seen by pretty much everyone in this generation it can be assured that little (if any) parents are encouraging this behavior. It is also almost four years later than Romeo and Juliet were expected to do so and it is not encouraged which has a huge effect on the way society acts. Overall, it’s just unimaginable to see children doing this let alone supporting it.
As well as the children now being young, married, and engaging in risky behavior, they are also interacting with some vile and toxic humor, along with foul actions. In the opening scene of the play “Romeo and Juliet”, Gregory and Sampson (servants of the Capulet) are seen acting very “dude- like”, also seen as being aggressive and joking about something that should never be joked about: rape. The two describe “thrust his maid to the wall” (pushing the Montague women up against walls) and taking what they want, to them that being their maidenheads. This would never be accepted in today’s society nor tolerated whatsoever.
As said in an article “The United State of Women” written by Amy Logan it discusses ways to respond to a rape joke. It talks about how living in today’s society men are expected to take advantage of women, and sadly enough people believe that. However, unlike in Shakespeare’s time, this society now has people that will step in and say something. On “vice.com” they write an article on the continuance of rape laws developing. More so, the brief and depressing history of rape laws (Conti). According to VICE, around the time Shakespeare was alive (mid to late 1500’s) the law in Babylonia was that if the victim was married, both the rapist and her would be sentenced to death. In Assyria, the father of a rape victim would be allowed to rape the rapist’s wife as punishment. Those, of course, are only for if actions are taken and most likely they wouldn’t have been. Even though it still occurs and is joked about in our society, it is taken much more serious and intolerable.
One of the most noticeable differences for gender expectation is the difference in status men and women had. Throughout the play “Romeo and Juliet” many sexist jokes were made, even though during that time they were not jokes. As some reference, these are some quotes said during the play, “Nor womanish fear, abate thy valor in the acting it”, “but you shall bear the burden soon at night”, and “Thy beauty hath made me effeminate”. In every one of those quotes, women are tagged as being weak, only meant for housework and to meet their husband’s needs, and to be completely happy and successful; only doing so through marriage. The men received great status as Lords, kings, and emperors, while women were owned by them and of no status.
This is completely unfair and inhumane, but for many years until recently it was seen as just. In an article by “Women Suffrage.org’ it displays a chart of every country in the world and when women were gained the right to vote. In Italy, where the town Verona is located, women didn’t gain the right to vote until 1945. These dates only provide a beginning to the complicated evolution of enfranchisement around the world (https://womensuffrage.org/?page_id=69). Since then, they now have 30% females making up their parliament and 54% in the workforce. Women’s rights have come a long way since then, and this has caused gender expectations to change drastically. Since women can now have jobs, they are no longer owned which means they can do what they want; whether that be owning land or being a housewife, it is now a choice.
Consequently, since rape and other humiliating actions were a “normal” encounter during the 1500’s men got away with a lot of these actions. One of the most prominent encounters is between the nurse, Mercutio, Peter, and Benvolio in the play “Romeo and Juliet”. The two boys say very rude things to her such as, “A sail! A sail!”, “Good, Peter, to hide her face, for her fan’s fairer than her face.”, and “No hare, sir, unless a hare, sir, in a Lenten pie-that is, something stale and hoar ere it be spent”. They are being objective and extremely rude, but, as a woman their worth would be that of a rat’s so nothing could or would be done. In an article written by South China Morning Post it discusses catcalling, as it is now becoming illegal and harshly punished in multiple countries. The author describes a haunting experience that occurred to her on a trip where she traveled single. The man texted her multiple times and when she had said she was busy and preferred to meet on a different day he said, “You sound like a nun or some really conservative Christian” (Lo). However, in light of this experience, she has had 3 men stand up for her in previous incidents. That is the main difference from then to now; men would have encouraged it then but now the ones who are strong enough will stand up against it.
The difference for gender expectations and the ways certain genders act from Shakespeare’s time to now is beyond belief. From marrying at age 13 to that number more than doubling at the average age of marriage now being 27. New rape laws being imposed and violating ones being removed. No longer having children at age 13…for the most part. Rude catcalling and assault being treated seriously. This just goes to show that as a society changes, people change with it.