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Compare and contrast the roles of the Nurse and Friar Lawrence in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

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Introduction

English - Shakespeare Coursework Essay Compare and contrast the roles of the Nurse and Friar Lawrence in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in the following ways: * Consider their contribution to the plot * Select short sections from the play involving these two characters for close study, showing appreciation of dramatic structure and stagecraft * Analyse what they tell us about Elizabethan society This essay will focus on the Nurse and Friar Lawrence, and how their actions and opinions affected Romeo and Juliet. From the outset of the play the prologue dooms them both by stating their "death-marked love". This makes the part of the Friar and the Nurse in their deaths unclear, as we do not know whether the "star-crossed lovers" would have died without them intervening on their behalf since it was written in the stars. As well as this, it also describes that the consequences of their actions "bury their parents' strife" giving a twist to the plot which, if the observer was removed from the emotional aspects of the play, could find balanced out the tragedy with a 'greater good'. Romeo and Juliet are the children of two wealthy families in Verona, the Montagues and the Capulets. Friar Lawrence and the Nurse are both lower down the social scale than Romeo and Juliet but act as confidants and close friends to them both, the Friar being a spiritual adviser as well. Romeo and Juliet depend on them both and treat them as extended family. In this way they value their advice and have very strong bonds between them. Although the guidance given by both the Nurse and Friar is valued equally, the actual opinion of each character may differ greatly. The Nurse is an out-going character who has wet-nursed and cared for Juliet since she was a baby and, due to the detached supervision of her own mother, Juliet is more likely to turn to the Nurse for advice and guidance. ...read more.

Middle

Due to the complexity of the Friar's plan, there is no 'backup' scheme that can be used in the event of a failure. In order for it to work, each 'link' in the plan must work flawlessly - which it does until only a seemingly small detail - the delivery of a letter to Romeo explaining what has been done - it unaccomplished due to a plague to the city. This throws all of the subsequent events into disarray and the Friar panics. His an example of his contradictory beliefs are shown when he is hurrying towards the vault where Juliet is lying, in order to warn Romeo that she is not actually dead. "Saint Francis be my speed. How oft tonight Have my old feet stumbled at graves." In his haste to get to the vault, he trips and stumbles - reminding us of what he said at the start of the play - "They stumble that run fast". His calm attitude towards the situation has not prevailed and he has wasted time. As well as this, the Friar ends by blaming the stars for the tradegy that occurred. When the Friar attempts to convince Juliet to leave the vault as he has heard a voice, he blames the problem not on his (or anyone else's) actions, but on a higher power. 'A greater power than we can contradict Has thwarted our intents.' When confronted with the Prince and other characters at the end, he admits involvement even though he feared being punished. The Friar explains the sequence of events that led to the tragedy and, in telling the truth, discloses the Nurse's involvement. He is believed because of his status as a 'holy man' and offers his life as a penance for his fault. This is interesting and shows part of the Friar's character not seen before. He may have offered his life honestly, and accepted that he would have to pay with his life. ...read more.

Conclusion

I think that the role of the Nurse and Friar in the tragedy is small, but the compound effect of many characters mistakes caused the deaths of the two lovers. For example Romeo and Juliet both took decisions which led to their deaths, but this is only part of the story. They behaved as they did because of the situation they found themselves in and because of the way in which people treated them. There is almost none in the play who does not bear some responsibility for their deaths - even the Prince could be accused; if he had been more forceful with his actions against the feuding families, the fight between Mercutio and Tybalt would not have happened. Romeo would not have killed Tybalt and therefore not been punished, bypassing the need for Friar Lawrence's complicated plan and avoiding the tragedy. The role of fate in the play is something that could be discussed in great detail. Was it just coincidence that Capulet should send out the invitations to the feast using a messenger who could not read, just at the moment when he will meet Romeo and so ask him to read the list for him. Also, it is strange that at a crowded party, where there are many attractive young girls, Romeo should see Juliet. There is only one point in the entire play where a character is mildly more to blame than any other - the Friar leaves Juliet by herself in the tomb, with Romeo and Paris both dead nearby. This is when she takes her own life, if the Friar had stayed longer, or forced her to come with him, she may have lived. Although this is akin to saying if Romeo had not drunk the poison, he would not have died, so my argument is flawed. I think that the Nurse and Friar are to blame, but just as much as other characters who interacted with Romeo and Juliet. If any one thing is to be blamed - it is the stars. ...read more.

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