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How important is Friar Lawrence, in his language and his actions to the development of 'Romeo and Juliet'?

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Introduction

How important is Friar Lawrence, in his language and his actions, to the development of Romeo and Juliet? In "Romeo and Juliet", Friar Lawrence the priest plays a crucial role in the development of the plot. Plans made by the cleric intended to reconcile the "ancient grudge" (Prologue) between two rival families, the Montagues and the Capulets, results in the tragic deaths of the two "star-crossed" (Prologue) lovers, Romeo and Juliet. Being a kindhearted priest, Friar Lawrence is respected as a "holy man" (3.3.81) (5.3.268) and has been a fair-minded helper throughout the play. However, he is also portrayed as a rather arrogant and pompous man who believes himself to be careful and wise yet is proven to be over-ambitious in his plans. This can be seen in his soliloquy in Act 2 Scene 3, where he shows off to the audience about his knowledge on plants and his opinions on living beings. Being over-confident, Lawrence secretly performs the marriage ceremony between Romeo and Juliet hoping that it will "turn [your] households'rancour to pure love"(2.3.92). Later on, he vainly attempts to reunite both lovers by providing Juliet with a sleeping potion. Though his intention appears to be good and with well wishes, he is too optimistic and is unable to foresee the failure of his plan or make any contingency measures when his strategy crumbles. ...read more.

Middle

The Prologue already states that "their death bury their parents' strife", which ironically predicts the failure of his plan and paves the way for the final calamity. It underlines the idea that Friar Lawrence's effort to fight against fate. The scenario of Act 1 is a tragedy, where the Montagues fights against the Capulets and 'mutiny' breaks out. It seems that nothing except death can heal the society. Act 2 then turns into a comedy when the marriage of Romeo and Juliet succeeds. This gives us hope where Friar Lawrence's plan might bring 'light in darkness'. Just when things look as though they might improve, new disaster strikes again in Act 3. The play at last becomes a tragedy when Lawrence's plans crumble. Although the storyline seems natural and inartificial, the element of fate gradually dominates the whole play, where neither the lovers nor Friar Lawrence could have stopped it. The overall structure of the play and the way the story unfolds produces a feeling of inevitability about the ending. However, if the whole plot is the result of fate, it leads to the question: how can Friar Lawrence be able to influence Romeo so much? When Queen Elizabeth ruled (the time when Shakespeare write), it was a patriarchal society where fathers were used to assert excessive power on their children. Lord Montague, unlike fathers at that time, has never worried about Romeo. ...read more.

Conclusion

The similes of "powder" and "honey" are applied together, implying the fact that Romeo's romantic sweet love would nevertheless encounter disastrous gunpowder. A prophetic remark is also made here ironically suggests his tragic end. This is proven yet another example of imagery linking the ideas of love and death. Lawrence again shows signs of wisdom and declares his belief that good things like "honey" will "confounds the appetite" and become bad deeds. Enjambment is employed to break up the rhythm, which in a way increases the flow of the blank verse and additionally reinforces the presence and power of fate. In conclusion, Friar Lawrence takes part in major developments of the whole plot and has been a pivotal character throughout the whole play. It can be argued that if Lawrence had not been so na�ve and had calculated the risks better, the whole calamitous plot could have been avoided. The misfortune could be argued as a result of Lawrence's failures in executing most of his plans properly. Even though he is not always on the stage throughout the play, he takes a significant role as a 'peacemaker' and greatly contributes to the development of the tragedy at the end. Whilst the whole play evolves, Shakespeare successfully applies linguistic tricks such as oxymoron and irony to foreshadow the "star-crossed" lovers' death in the last scene. This can be seen in Friar Lawrence's meaningful speech: "Virtue itself turns vice being misapplied." (2.3.21), the "remedy" (4.2.76) has finally killed both Romeo and Juliet instead of saving them. ?? ?? ?? ?? 08/08/2007 Adrian Tam 1 ...read more.

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