Should we ban Romeo and Juliet?

No play by William Shakespeare is more famous than Romeo and Juliet. Even those who are not fans of Shakespeare will pick up on its famous line “wherefore art thou, Romeo?”. Its classic tale of star-crossed lovers has been played thousands of times and has been remade into musicals, ballets and films. No doubt about it, a great play.

Except there’s one huge elephant in the room. Juliet is thirteen, as her father Capulet makes clear “My Child is yet a stranger in the world: she hath not seen the change of fourteen years

Now we at LSS have always shared the popular animadversion to paedophilia. Sex with drastically underaged persons is psychologically and physically wrong. We know personally of Police Officers who have broken down after working on units charged with investigating this crime. So what must be the consequences for its victims? Capulet himself gives the game away : Let two more summers wither in their pride, ere we may think her ripe to be a bride

We support every effort to either hide or normalise paedophilia , wherever it is found. There’s no getting around Romeo and Juliet: someone has sex with a thirteen-year old girl. That will used as licence by someone else, somewhere, for highly unsavoury purposes.

Apologists will say that they did things differently in former times. The history of European Royalty is littered with examples of child brides and arranged marriages. Shakespeare’s text preserves these customs in fossilised form. Maybe so. But the fact that we also do things differently means that certain works of art and texts are no longer considered wholesome. The Taming of the Shrew is rarely performed, because of its attitude to women. Certain novellas by Joseph Conrad are no longer mentionable in polite society, nor on family-friendly blogs like this one. Statues, paintings and even certain works of music are now removed, noisily or otherwise, because they depict our ancestors behaving in ways of which we no longer approve. By this logic, should Romeo and Juliet join the same canon? We at LSS don’t know the answer. But we have every right to ask the question.

#shakespeare #romeo and juliet #paedophilia #joseph conrad #the taming of the shrew #censorship #text #feminism #racism

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