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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

Louise Constable 18th February 2002 Romeo and Juliet Coursework Compare and contrast the roles of the nurse and Friar Lawrence in William Shakespeare's - Romeo and Juliet in the following ways 1. Consider their contribution to the plot a. Select short sections from the play involving these two characters for close study, showing an appreciation of dramatic structure and stagecraft. b. Analyse what they tell us about Elizabethan society Shakespeare's' principle source for the plot for Romeo and Juliet was 'The Tragicall HIstorye of Romeus and Juliet (1562) a long narrative poem by the English poet Arthur Broke. The story of the two star-crossed lovers, and their feuding families, the Montagues' and Capulets', proved rich material for Shakespeare. Yet he had to lift this story from the page and into the theatre. The Nurse and Friar Lawrence share in the task or weaving together a large number of related impression and judgements. The Nurse supplies a good deal of information concerning Juliet's past. The nurse recalls Juliet's birth on the 31st July almost 14 yrs ago. She describes her beauty: 'thou wast the prettiest babe that e'er I nursed' and she raises the issue of marriage: 'and I might live to see thee married once' so setting the scene for this young beauty to fall in love and marry. ...read more.

Middle

Instead of the simple servant wisdom of hers, he has the educated view. At some points in the play he deals with both the lovers and helps them with there on going problems caused by the conflicting families. But for all the Friar's education, the audience cannot help but feel he is rash at times. He rushes to wed this very immature young couple. Does he not, for one moment, ponder over the consequences of marrying two people from such diverse families? Under his management, things go from bad to worse. The audience believe him to be capable of marrying Paris and Juliet together, essentially a bigamous marriage. But instead he gives Juliet a sleeping draft. With the Friar's sleeping potion, she easily convinces everyone around her that she is dead. On the strength of this, a funeral is arranged. Instead of orchestrating the couples' ultimate happiness, the subterfuge leads to Romeo taking his own life. On finding the grieving Juliet, the Friar should have placated her and turned her from suicide, but with cowardice he makes his escape. Should a man of his standing be capable of such sabotage? And yet we believe his motives to be pure if not misguided. He is seen to be Romeo's honest and trustworthy friend. We do see the Friar in parts of the play be the restraining voice of sense and prudence. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Friar in describing Juliet's drugged moribund state: 'No warmth, no breath, shall testify thou livest; The roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade To waned ashes; thy eyes' windows fall,' When Romeo comes to tell the Friar of his new love for Juliet, the Friar loses patience with Romeo's elaborate metaphorical language, 'Be plain good son, and homely in thy drift. Riddling confession finds but riddling shrift' When the Nurse believes Juliet to be dead she says: O woe! O woeful, woeful, woeful day! Most lamentable day, most woeful day, That ever, ever, I did yet behold!' reflecting the grief that is felt by the audience. The tragedy is magnified by the bathos of the language. So succinct is Shakespeare in his prose that he is able to give the audience an all- encompassing summary of the plot in his opening lines. 'Two households both alike in dignity, In fair Verona where we lay our scene,....' We immediately are able to place the play, its high moral tone, its austerity and magnitude of tale. We are given a glimpse of Elizabethan life: affluent families with their own historic grudges. The prologue speaks of enduring love and conflict, of hate and untimely death and the futileness of love in the face of all that hatred. A historic documentary of monumental proportions, but which is told in such style and imagery that it stands the test of time. ...read more.

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