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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: May ::
Re: Juliet's Age and "Average" Age at the Time
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0842  Tuesday, 11 May 1999.

[1]     From:   Ray Lischner <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 May 1999 14:40:20 GMT
        Subj:   Re: Juliet's Age and "Average" Age at the Time

[2]     From:   John Drakakis <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 May 1999 15:54:22 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 10.0839 Juliet's Age and "Average" Age at the Time

[3]     From:   Ron Dwelle <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 May 1999 16:22:27 -0000
        Subj:   SHK 10.0839 Juliet's Age and "Average" Age at the Time

[4]     From:   Joe Conlon <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 May 1999 17:17:34 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0839 Juliet's Age and "Average" Age at the Time


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ray Lischner <
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Date:           Monday, 10 May 1999 14:40:20 GMT
Subject:        Re: Juliet's Age and "Average" Age at the Time

>Any thoughts on aging and survival?
>"As Leonard Hayflick says, 'It is astonishing to realize that the human
>species survived hundreds of thousands of years, more than 99% of its
>time on this planet, with a life expectancy of only 18 years."

"Average" life expectancy is a misleading concept. Consider the
following over-simplified situation:

On a desert island, three children are born. One dies immediately,
another dies at age 10, and the third lives to the age of 80. The
average life expectancy, therefore, is 30 years, which tells you
nothing.

High infant mortality lowers the average life expectancy, but tells you
nothing about how long the average person lived. More useful is to know
the median life expectancy (that is, the age at which half of the people
had shorter life spans and half had longer). Another more useful number
is the average life expectancy for people who reached adulthood.

Ray Lischner  (http://www.bardware.com)
co-author (with John Doyle) of Shakespeare for Dummies

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Drakakis <
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Date:           Monday, 10 May 1999 15:54:22 +0100
Subject: 10.0839 Juliet's Age and "Average" Age at the Time
Comment:        RE: SHK 10.0839 Juliet's Age and "Average" Age at the Time

Try looking at Peter Laslett,

The World We Have Lost

Cheers,
John Drakakis

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ron Dwelle <
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Date:           Monday, 10 May 1999 16:22:27 -0000
Subject: 10.0839 Juliet's Age and "Average" Age at the Time
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0839 Juliet's Age and "Average" Age at the Time

We shouldn't confuse "average life span" with the "lifespan of an
average person." Low average life spans are largely the result of high
mortality among infants and children. If one person dies at 1 year and a
second dies at 65 years, the average life span is 33 years (which is
pretty meaningless to the person who lives to be 65). Both may have been
average non-dramatic personages.

The chief change in average life span since Shakespeare's day is the
radical reduction in child mortality. If you were lucky enough to
survive the childhood diseases in Shakespeare's day, your life span
would likely be only slightly less than it is today. The big jump in
recent years, in addition, is largely the result of prolonged old age.

Gender-wise, death in child-birth was obviously much higher than
nowadays (look how few mothers there are in the plays), but otherwise
there's no difference.

I doubt if Juliet's marrying at 14 has much to do with average life
spans-more with social expectations. As her mother says, many of
Juliet's age in Verona are already wed.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joe Conlon <
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Date:           Monday, 10 May 1999 17:17:34 -0500
Subject: 10.0839 Juliet's Age and "Average" Age at the Time
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0839 Juliet's Age and "Average" Age at the Time

There is an excellent chapter in Shakespeare Alive by Elizabeth Kirkland
and Joe Papp about life expectancy in the Elizabethan era.  Fewer than
50% of children born reached the age of five due to various childhood
illnesses.  If you made it to puberty, around 50% of pregnant woman died
during their first childbirth and the males were likely to be drawn into
one of the almost constant wars.  If wounded, chances of succumbing to
infection were great.  Pandemics of Smallpox and plague carried off
thousands.  If you had a sturdy constitution and immune system, you were
likely to live to a ripe old age-at least until your teeth started
falling out which led to malnutrition, weakness, and death from one of
countless pathogens waiting to carry you off.  The practice of medicine
was woefully primitive and dentistry was almost non-existent.  "Eat,
drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die." was a very practical code.

Just as an aside, it wasn't until the mid twentieth century that ANY
disease was curable with drugs.

Joe Conlon, Warsaw, IN, USA
 

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