Before I start, I would like to clarify that I am looking and writing with a modern perspective. At the time in Italy, things may have been different, and so one may arrive at a conclusion different from my own.
It has become a subject of debate whether Romeo and Juliet’s love in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is shallow puppy love carried out by teenage children. I have been reading the play in English and in my understanding, the two’s love is a bit more than short passion, but not much more. It cannot be denied that both Romeo and Juliet love from a physical point. That can be seen in Romeo’s change from his description of Rosaline that “beauty starved with her severity cuts beauty off from all posterity. She is too fair…” to his exclamation that “I have forgot [Rosaline]… my heart’s dear love is set on the fair daughter of rich Capulet” (25, 103). Romeo solely focuses his love, or desires, on appearance, so when someone fairer than the one he loves shows herself, Romeo ditches his old love immediately. We can see from here that Romeo have a rather immature view on love, and he “love by rote, that could not spell” (105). Juliet, on the other hand, is much less impulsive and naive, but in modern standards, she loves too fast and without deeper thought. This can be seen in how she is shaken when the news of Romeo killing Tybalt comes, wondering how can “[a] book containing such vile matter [ever be] so fairly bound” (163). The fact that Juliet just comes to realize what kind of person her husband is after the wedding is quite alarming, likely leading to an unhappy marriage after the physical attractions fade away with age. The reason I don’t classify this affair as simple puppy love is because the two aren’t just loving for fun, like so many teenage kids; they are prepared to live their entire lives together, united in marriage. The intense passion made them oblivious to the other’s shortcomings, classifying the relationship as one that is not well thought out, but the extent of their love goes a long ways beyond physical lust and attraction.
When considering whether Romeo and Juliet are children or not regarding the conventions then, we can assume that they are viewed as adults. Romeo and Juliet was written between 1591 and 1595, originating from The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet written in 1562. The story likely took place during or slightly before that period. In medieval England, children at the age of twelve will often find themselves given the responsibilities of adults with adult-like consequences (academia.edu). Jobs like rock scarers (restaurant dishwashers) or shepherds in Montaillo, France are given to young boys at the age of twelve. The fact that both Romeo and Juliet are in noble households mean that they don’t have to work, but they are both of age to marry as to the customs. It is not often that children under the age of fourteen are married in medieval England, but around 8 % of the children documented are married at that age. The conditions should be similar in Verona, Italy, so the two lovers are both adults in their society. I wasn’t able to find whether “for most of the history of mankind, at 14 years of age human beings were considered to be adults” as claimed by Kulich in her article, but her central idea that Romeo and Juliet are adults is right.