Debate:Is Romeo and Juliet appropriate?

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While it is certainly a great work and undoubtedly worthy of academic study (and just plain old watching for leisure), I wonder if it is an appropriate topic for discussion in a forum that, by its raison d'etre, includes young children?

Romeo and Juliet is a rather sexually charged play, and let us not forget that the protagonists are children, Juliet herself being thirteen years old. While no sex explicitly takes place in the action of the play, the protagonists are secretly married and it is not difficult to imagine what typically happens on a wedding night.

Should we condone this play, let alone discuss it, or not? If so, why? If not, why not?

Yea

It's been around for over 400 years. I seriously doubt it's our place to condone it. Ozark 16:26, 28 August 2007 (EDT)

Fair enough, but should we here at CP be discussing it? There is an article about it, and we strive to keep our entries family-friendly. Is a sexually charged drama involving a 13 year old girl family-friendly?--Porthos 16:39, 28 August 2007 (EDT)
I would hardly call it sexually charged. Bohdan 16:41, 28 August 2007 (EDT)
It is not sexually charged in an open and obvious way, but it would have been impossible for it to be so in its day. Shakespeare uses some creative means of injecting sexual innuendo into the play. For example, take Juliet's line: "O happy dagger! This is thy sheath. There rust, and let me die." The dagger/sheath metaphor is glaring. Not only that, but it sexualizes death in a rather disturbing way. And what about the fact that a 13 year old girl gets married (and presumably consummates her marriage)?--Porthos 16:50, 28 August 2007 (EDT)
My great grandma got married at 13 and was married for 74 years. People married much younger in the past. Maestro 13:20, 29 August 2007 (EDT)
So are we saying that morals change with time? Today I doubt we would find an American parent who would allow a 13 year old to marry; we conservatives also strive to stand opposed to the liberals' concept of "moral relativism". Something is either right or wrong and that concept does not change. How do we synthesize that concept with this?--Porthos 13:38, 29 August 2007 (EDT)
You know, I think maybe morals have changed a little over time. Selling your daughter into slavery isn't considered moral any more, and outside of Muslim countries, neither is one man having more than three wives. --ZackT 12:35, 30 August 2007 (EDT)
That's an extremely dangerous position to take. If we start saying that morality can change depending on time and place, then we are leaving the flood gates wide open to moral relativism. How can the morality of sexual innocence change?--Porthos 12:44, 30 August 2007 (EDT)
What? Your saying the Bible had it wrong, but we're got it right now? Or that we need to go back to harems and the age of 'consent' being 13? --ZackT 12:55, 30 August 2007 (EDT)
I'm saying that either it is wrong for a 13 year old to marry and have sex, or it is not wrong. Both cannot be true.--Porthos 13:10, 30 August 2007 (EDT)

<--- Back then, none of them would probably have thought marrying at 13 is wrong. Whether this is considered an issue of morality is up to you - the shift into older age of consent, etc. could be results of increased longevity. ATang 14:21, 30 August 2007 (EDT)

Why would/should longevity affect the age of consent? Was a 13 year old four hundred years ago somehow more able to make an informed decision than a 13 year old today?--Porthos 14:27, 30 August 2007 (EDT)
In a society where most people die at the age of 30, it makes all the sense to get married early, so you spend longer time of your life to raise your kid. I also believe that kids today are pampered. They are way less prepared for the real world than 13-year-olds back then. So to answer your question: Yes, 13-year-olds four hundred years ago are more able to make informed decisions in their world than 13-year-olds today can in today's world. (And morality is still out of the equation in my reply. Age of marriage is social convention.) ATang 14:54, 30 August 2007 (EDT)
That's a pretty good response. But, if 13 year olds were capable of dealing with adult responsibilities and parenthood in that world, what is the reason we don't we raise them that same way now and give them even MORE time to raise kids?--Porthos 15:00, 30 August 2007 (EDT)
It's also a simpler world back then - less to learn, less preparation, and there's also fewer opportunities to escape the class you're born in. Now, we need 12 years of primary and secondary school, just to get a mediocre, blue-collar job. Four years of university for a middle-class position, not to mention masters and PhD's. There's so much more to learn that kids can "afford" to delay learning concepts vitally needed in order to sustain themselves in the real world (i.e. responsibility) - and in today's world parents are also spending less time with their kids! Because the delayed "release" into the real world, kids nowadays are mentally younger while biologically older. (From what I've seen, those who get a job early learn responsibility and maturity much, much quicker than those who don't) ATang 15:05, 30 August 2007 (EDT)

Porthos, do you actually care about this issue? Or did you raise it only to "throw stones" at CP for imagined hypocrisy?

In any case, the play is rarely assigned to schoolchildren at the age you claim to care about. It is a high-school or college-level work of literature.

And it's not just about the two "lovers" having an affair. There is also the theme, which many students would be more interested in, of young people from different parts of town forming a friendship which adults frowned upon. Hence the popularity of "West Side Story". --Ed Poor Talk 14:32, 30 August 2007 (EDT)

I do care about it. It's an issue that I believe people rarely think about, and it certainly makes for an interesting discussion. Why do sexual mores change over time? What are the real reasons a society selects its moral standards? These are fascinating questions and, I believe, worthy of discussion. I don't have a terrifically powerful stance on one side or the other; I simply enjoy debating various issues for the intellectual exercise.--Porthos 14:40, 30 August 2007 (EDT)

Regarding the mentions of death in R&J - the "and let me die" passage mentioned above along with "Indeed, I never shall be satisfied / With Romeo, till I behold him--dead--" These are both suggestions of la petite morte rather than the cessation of life. The question if these innuendos are appropriate is another matter, but it is important to understand the puns and the wordplay that was used in Shakespeare's plays. This wordplay and innuendo can be seen from the very opening with the passage of Sampson that begins "Ay, the heads of the maids." Much of this was explained by my religious high school freshman English teacher (after checking the hallway for nuns). The innuendos were likely designed to help hold the audience's attention in original performances, and also had high schoolers point and giggle at various passages... and we actually read it once we realized that rather than going for the cliff notes. --Rutm 14:36, 30 August 2007 (EDT)

Nay

There are great works of art involving nudity, which are sexually charged and have been deemed inappropriate for schooling-age Conservapedia users; why should a play be any different? It will be understood as being about under-age sex; and explaining that this was 'acceptable' in the past might be seen as a green light by modern teens! Pachyderm 13:42, 29 August 2007 (EDT)

They suffer a lot and die at the end. I think most modern kids MIGHT be able to figure out they're not exactly supposed to be role-models. --ZackT 12:54, 30 August 2007 (EDT)
Just the type of thing to appeal to disaffected Goth death-cult teens - we don't want to encourage them. Expose our children to wholesomeness! Pachyderm 12:57, 30 August 2007 (EDT)
So what plays would you have them study, Pach? Ozark 13:37, 31 August 2007 (EDT)
And as a corollary... should Othello, MacBeth, Odyssey, Illiad all be banned from schools as well? Lord of the Flies? All of these contain a lot of violence (and racism too). ATang 13:45, 31 August 2007 (EDT)

Absolutely. There must be mountains of material that is artistic, educational and wholesome. When I was at school, we did R&J, and worse still, were instructed to see the film (Zefirelli version), which led to regrettable impurity of thought. So I know whereof I speak. Pachyderm 13:47, 31 August 2007 (EDT)

Well, the essence of any literary work is conflict, so what would you have high school students reading? I'm a librarian myself, I'm not sure there are 'mountains' of young adult literature that don't contain violence or difficult choices about sexuality. I ask again...what specific works of fiction would you assign teenagers to read? Ozark 13:53, 31 August 2007 (EDT)
The less racy Jane Austen novels might be a good place to start. Sense and Sensibility is one of the more moral of them. Anything from the Elizabethan/Jacobean canon is likely to be regrettably carnal. Pachyderm 13:56, 31 August 2007 (EDT)
Older teens can read Hamlet. It has suicide, murder, accusations of incest, dueling. It has two cases of poisoning (Prince Hamlet's father King Hamlet murdered; King Claudius attempts to poison the prince but kills his mother by mistake). Then there's the "lie between your legs (c'untry matters)" stuff. Shakespeare would have been rated R back then. --Ed Poor Talk 13:58, 31 August 2007 (EDT)
I certainly think that misbehaving teens should be made to sit through a Shakespeare comedy. That'd learn them. Pachyderm 14:02, 31 August 2007 (EDT)
Wow, I simply cannot see how you could ban all those works from schools. The biggest lessons I learned from Othello, R&J, and Lord of the Flies is the ugly sides of human nature - and all three of the works express the tragedy that will result. No way that could be seen as promoting the acts depicted in the works. The death of Piggy didn't prompt me to push someone off a cliff - it's such a reinforcement that that was wrong! ATang 14:10, 31 August 2007 (EDT)
Yes, I still shudder and look over my shoulder every time I put on my "specs". It was my revulsion to "peer violence" that led me to creating a strict "no hitting, no teasing" rule in my Sunday School years ago. William Golding made a lasting impression. --Ed Poor Talk 14:12, 31 August 2007 (EDT)
That is such a good rule. Although I've personally never encountered the level of bullying I read about in the US, I could imagine how damaging it could be. Surprisingly my specs have never been made fun of; but then I'm Chinese - not wearing glasses would be the oddity! (and before someone says I was stereotyping, there's research that indicates Asian populations have higher occurrence of myopia...) ATang 14:39, 31 August 2007 (EDT)

Related thoughts

How old was Mary? Some theories put her at 13 or 14. The Song of Solomon is much more explicit than Romeo and Juliet. The story of Bathsheba and King David's cover up starting at II Samuel 11 makes the drama in Romeo and Juliet appear to be innocent fun between two teenagers. Are these topics not appropriate to be discussed either? --Rutm 13:19, 30 August 2007 (EDT)

How old was Mary? Irrelevant: She was a virgin. Pachyderm 13:21, 30 August 2007 (EDT)
Virgin or not (and depending on how one translates parthenos[1] there is still the question of how old was Mary when she was betrothed to Joseph. R&J weren't having premarital sex - they were married. Yes they were married, at the age of 13 - but then how old was Mary when she was betrothed to Joseph? --Rutm 13:30, 30 August 2007 (EDT)
Well...she was certainly a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. To my knowledge there is nothing in the Bible that explicitly states that she remained a virgin throughout her entire life. There are, however, schools of thought in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches that maintain her "Perpetual Virginity".--Porthos 13:32, 30 August 2007 (EDT)
I'm a little late in getting to this debate it looks like; i wonder if anyone will read it.

The Bible sayes that Jesus had brothers and sisters in John 2:12, and other passages. There is no question; Mary did not remain a virgin. I think Rutm makes an extremly valuable point in comparing the scripture to R&J. Society changes; thats clear: Adam's children married each other. That was because society was (obviously!) different then. Thirteen year-olds could be married for much of human history. Society's different now, and I think mature students can learn about other societies. --StevenM 17:02, 26 October 2007 (EDT)

I beg to differ. It is well known that the word for brothers and cousins was the same word. As a devout Roman Catholic I see plentiful evidence that the Blessed Virgin Mary was perpetually virgin. Moreover, the arguments put forth to the contrary have been roundly debunked over the last 2000 years. --Johnstosh 16:14, 25 April 2009 (EDT)

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