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To what extent did Shakespeare make us believe that the Friar was to blame for the tragic events that happened in Romeo and Juliet?

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Introduction

To what extent did Shakespeare make us believe that the Friar was to blame for the tragic events that happened in Romeo and Juliet? In Shakespeare's play, 'Romeo and Juliet', Friar Laurence plays a major role; in the impossible marriage of Romeo and Juliet, in Juliet's "death" plan, and in Romeo's death. Without the Friar many crucial and tragic events would not have happened in 'Romeo and Juliet', but how much does Shakespeare convince us that the Friar is to blame for the tragic ending, and that he is the sole influence that drives Romeo and Juliet to end their lives so terribly? The Friar is established as an honoured man, an apothecary who sells herbs and medicines to the people of Verona, producing potions for both causes of good and evil. He makes his first appearance in the play at the beginning of Act Two, Scene 3, during which Shakespeare gives us a background to his thoughts and personality through his short lecture on herbal drugs that can kill and cure. "O, mickle is the powerful grace that lies/ In plants, herbs, stones, and their true qualities. / For naught so vile that on earth doth live / But to the earth some special good doth give; / Nor aught so good but, strained from that fair use, / Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse." give the impression that he is a wise and intelligent man and as the whole play based on the balance of good and evil, it is almost epitomised in this speech on drugs which could be a reason to place more blame on him for his accurate prediction. Despite this, the Friar's close relationship with Romeo is also revealed in this scene, as Romeo confesses his love for Juliet to Friar Laurence, who is clearly accustomed to hearing Romeo's confessions of love and who has evidently given him advice in the past. ...read more.

Middle

The Friar recognises that Romeo and Juliet are far too ambitious in their desires to marry so soon and warns them that they should prepare themselves for the dreadful consequences and terrible situations that will arise. Again, the Friar's sophisticated and intelligent language contrasts with Romeo and Juliet's romantic sonnets, giving you the impression that the Friar is shrewd enough to resolve all the problems; he will marry the lovers, solve issues with Juliet's father and Tybalt and in the end the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues will be over - "In one respect I'll thy assistant be. / For this alliance may so happy prove, / To turn your household's rancour to pure love" (Act 2 Scene 3). Accordingly, it seems that the Friar knows all along that "These violent delights have violent ends" (Act 2, Scene 6). Shakespeare constantly uses the Friar to foreshadow future events in the play, possibly so that we believe that he one way or another knows the couples' fate and the plot is in his hands. Shakespeare represents him as a character that foretells the ending to a tragic tale and someone we can refer back to for evidence that the ending was in fact expected to happen all along. Could this be leading us to thinking that because he knows their fate, he is to blame for his prediction turning out to be true? Surely we cannot blame him simply because he guessed accurately, although automatically the audience would turn to the person who is mostly in control of the plotline and knows the fate of the two lovers outwardly before he even knows they are in love. If Shakespeare was in fact trying to lead his sixteenth century, and most likely very religious audience into believing that Friar Laurence was to blame for Romeo and Juliet's not-so-happy ending, what was he trying to say about religion in those times? ...read more.

Conclusion

It is quite ironic how all of the other characters seem to forgive him - "We still have known thee for a holy man", but how much are we led to believe that he can forgive himself? In his speech, Shakespeare leaves us not knowing if the Friar is truly sorry for his actions ("Miscarried by my fault, let my old life / Be sacrific'd") or if his whole speech is an act that he does not believe and his repentance simply a mask. To conclude, the Friar is a very interesting character to analyse in Shakespeare's play of Romeo and Juliet as there is no true answer as to whether or not Shakespeare was trying to show that he is to blame for the tragedy. He is guilty to some extent, for it is he who is mostly in control of the plotline throughout and could have done differently to adjust the tragic ending, but would the ending actually change if his actions had been different? The prologue tells the story in brief and foreshadows exactly what does happen in the end - "Two households, both alike in dignity... A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life". In telling the full outline of the story at the very start of the play, Shakespeare shows us that the fate of Romeo and Juliet will remain the same no matter what will happen along the way, and the Friar just happens to play a big part leading towards the inevitable ending. Even if the Friar did do things differently and the ending could have been altered, would we actually want the ending to change? Romeo and Juliet die in each others' arms for their extreme love for one and other and the feud between their two families is finally over, despite there being a few deaths along the way. Perhaps the Friar's plan is for the greater good after all, as a happy ending would have defeated the purpose of Shakespeare's tragedy. ?? ?? ?? ?? English Shakespeare Essay Second Draft Arta Ajeti 10B.2 Page 1 ...read more.

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