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Shakespeare

Obscenity
"She hath not seen the change of fourteen years."
ROMEO AND JULIET
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Ashcroft

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Free Speech Coalition
Obscenity

Justice Kennedy Opinion
April 16, 2002
Seal Of The Supreme Court
Excerpt:

Both themes — teenage sexual activity and the sexual abuse of children-have inspired countless literary works. William Shakespeare created the most famous pair of teenage lovers, one of whom is just 13 years of age. See ROMEO AND JULIET, Act I, Scene 2, Line 9 ("She hath not seen the change of fourteen years"). In the drama, Shakespeare portrays the relationship as something splendid and innocent, but not juvenile. The work has inspired no less than 40 motion pictures, some of which suggest that the teenagers consummated their relationship. E.g., ROMEO AND JULIET (B. Luhrmann director, 1996). Shakespeare may not have written sexually explicit scenes for the Elizabethean audience, but were modern directors to adopt a less conventional approach, that fact alone would not compel the conclusion that the work was obscene.

Text Excerpt:

THE TRAGEDY OF ROMEO AND JULIET, Act I, William Shakespeare

Capulet:

But saying o'er what I have said before:
My child is yet a stranger in the world,
She hath not seen the change of fourteen years;
Let two more summers wither in their pride
Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride.

Paris:

Younger than she are happy mothers made.

Capulet:

And too soon marr'd are those so early made.
The earth hath swallowed all my hopes but she,
She is the hopeful lady of my earth:
But woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart,
My will to her consent is but a part;
An she agree, within her scope of choice
Lies my consent and fair according voice.


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