Both Romeo and Juliet and Sonezaki Shinju tell us the story of the suicide of two lovers due to the odds against their love affairs. Both are heart-wrenching and remind us of the bitter-sweet and turbulent emotions of young love.
However similar the plot of these two plays may be, there are certain differences that mark the uniqueness of each. Both Romeo and Juliet and Sonezaki Shinju are expressions of social conventions of their time. Both Eastern and Western cultures, or the British and Japanese cultures for that matter, are mirrored in these opuses. These literary pieces can be best understood in the societal context in which they occurred.
Romeo and Juliet gives us a peek into the pre-modern Elizabethan period in England. During this era, many people die young and are expected to marry at an age younger than the age most of the youths marry today. Juliet was only 13 in the story, only just on the onset of her adolescence (Wikipedia). Romeo was also only in his adolescent stage in the story. William Shakespeare himself, on the other hand, was only eighteen years old when he married.
Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is said to be a dramatization of Arthur Brook's poem The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, which is said to be inspired by an Italian tale (Wikipedia) ...