Romeo and Juliet are sexting: consent, countertime and literary voice

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Romeo and Juliet is ‘a tragedy of the name’, that is, a story about how the ‘civil brawls’ between two feuding families determine the life stories of the protagonists, since Romeo and Juliet are born ‘from forth the fatal loins of these two foes’. The title of the play, Romeo’s and Juliet’s names, determines the tragic plot, which ends with their deaths, but also offers these lovers a certain timelessness. Reading the all-time canonical tale of pubescent love as a tragedy that stages young love as rash and risky, this essay juxtaposes the image-abundant and flirty communication between Shakespeare’s tragic lovers with the contemporary phenomenon of digital sexting. It argues that their exchange shares with this contemporary form of love letters a risk of its ‘fatal’ publicity, and that this possibility – the risk that their messages do not arrive at the right place at the right time – is integral to the communication. It foregrounds the question of voice and its complex undertakings of both mediating our social being and constituting the grain of our subjectivity and suggests that Romeo’s and Juliet’s excessive speech can challenge our distributions of privacy and agency in the context of our cultural discussions about teenage sexuality.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTextual Practice
ISSN0950-236X
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes

ID: 214513118