Censorship in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

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When I first read Romeo and Juliet, I thought I was reading the "real" version. Nowhere did it say that this was an abridged version of the classic, and little did I question what was written in my textbook. I look upon it now, and realize exactly how censored it is. Then I realized how much of it they spoon-fed me and how I believed it all. The textbook from which the ninth graders of this town read has many censored passages. According to the Merriam-Webster web page, the term bowdlerize means "to expurgate by omitting or modifying parts considered vulgar" or "to modify by abridging, simplifying, or distorting in style or content." (Updated September 1997). Censorship, conversely, is defined as being "a word derived from the Latin, and also a concept based on the Roman idea of social and legal justice. The word ‘censor’ comes from the Latin censere, which means to tax, to value, or to judge, or all three." (Hoyt 9). To me, I believe that was what Mr. Thomas Bowdler was doing. Censorship is very much judging what is right or correct according to ourselves and then places value or worth to certain works of literature. Mr. Bowdler was taking it upon himself to deem what was appropriate for people young and old to read when they read the great works of William Shakespeare. This horrific act is most prominently seen in the textbooks of today’s freshman in high school. On a recent visit to my old high school, I took a look at my old textbook. It is the one I so fondly remember reading Romeo and Juliet from. This is the textbook currently used in the Unit 5 high schools here in Bloomington-Normal. It is the Adventures in Reading textbook published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. When I first read Romeo and Juliet, I thought I was reading the "real" version. Nowhere did it say that this was an abridged version of the classic, and little did I question what was written in my textbook. I look upon it now, and realize exactly how bowdlerized it is. Then I realized how much of it they spoon-fed me and how I believed it all. The textbook from which the ninth graders of this town read has many bowdlerized passages. To begin with, all of the same passages in Act I that Janet Zweig displays as being left out of the Understanding Literature textbook, were also left out of the Adventures in Reading textbook, plus some.
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