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Discuss with close reference to the text how far you consider Friar Lawrence to be responsible for the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet
How far is Friar Lawrence responsible for Romeo and Juliet’s deaths? With close reference to the text, it can be found that Friar Lawrence is responsible for the tragic deaths, but it can also be argued that, fate would have intervened and Romeo and Juliet would still have ended their lives under tragic circumstances
Friar Lawrence is an Elizabethan monk, he would have been greatly respected by all citizens. Also many people would have thought of him as a wise and honest man, one who was close with God.
The audience when this play was first performed would have believed in superstition, fate, religion and life after death. They would have noticed Irony and superstition a lot better then the majority of people today, and would have found the jokes and irony in the play amusing.
In Act II scene 3 we find out that Friar Lawrence’s favourite hobby is looking at plants and using their properties for helping people, mainly making medicines. He tells the audience about the good and bad sides of plants, and that some can act as medicines but some can contain deadly poison, this should be noticed by the audience. The audience should realise that poison will be a big part of the play.
“Within the infant rind of this weak flower
Poison hath residence and medicine power:
For this, being smelt, with that part cheers each part;
Being tasted, stays all senses with the heart.” Lines 19 - 22
This part means that in this flower there is poison, the smell of the flower is nice, but if you eat the flower it will kill you.
Romeo thinks of Friar Lawrence as his mentor and a fatherly figure. There is a lot of irony in the Friar’s first speech. The audience should start to realise that there’s a tragic end to this play from what is said.
“ The earth that’s nature’s mother is her tomb;
What is her burying grave, that is her womb;” Lines 5 - 6
This should give the audience a feeling of foreboding. Also the audience would have sensed the irony. When Romeo tells Friar Lawrence about his loss of interest in Rosaline, and his new love, Juliet the daughter of rich Capulet the enemy of Romeo’s family, Friar Lawrence can not believe how fickle Romeo is, and tells Romeo that young men must love with their eyes rather then their hearts!
“Holy Saint Francis! What a change is here!
Is Rosaline, that thou didst love so dear,
So soon forsaken? Young men’s love then lies
Not truly in their hearts but in their eyes.” Lines 61 – 64
Friar Lawrence tells Romeo that he can not forget Rosaline so soon after all the moaning he has done. Friar Lawrence tells Romeo that.
“Women may fall when there’s no strength in men.” Line 76
Romeo argues with Friar Lawrence saying that he always told him off for loving Rosaline! But Friar Lawrence corrects him and tells him that he told him off for his moaning and doting, not for his love. Romeo tells Friar Lawrence that he didn’t love Rosaline, but loves Juliet. Before Friar Lawrence says another word to Romeo he changes his mind and agrees to marry him to Juliet.
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“In one respect I’ll thy assistant be.
For this alliance may so happy prove
To turn your households’ rancour to pure love.”
Friar Lawrence does this so that he can persuade the two quarrelsome families into making peace, marrying their children as a symbol of how the families are the same.
Friar Lawrence tells Romeo not to rush things and go slower
“Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.”
This is a good piece of irony as Friar Lawrence tells Romeo off for having sudden haste. Which is very ironic as Friar Lawrence stumbles over a tomb stone near the end off the play. Stumbling in Elizabethan times was considered a bad omen and people thought that it pointed out that death, or another tragedy was about to happen. Also Friar Lawrence acts in haste getting Romeo and Juliet married, another piece of irony as he tells Romeo to go slow.
Act II Scene 6 shows us Friar Lawrence telling Romeo about his woes of the marriage, but soon conceals them when Juliet arrives.
“These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume. The sweetest honey
Is loathsome in his own deliciousness,” Lines 9 - 12
This basically means that grieving always follows happy times, so they will be a tragic end to this marriage like all the rest before. The audience realise by now that there will be a tragic end to this play.
When Juliet enters Friar Lawrence’s cell the Friar stops in his speech abruptly, to make his tone positive and encouraging, showing him to be ‘two faced’.
“Come, come with me and we will make short work
For, by you leaves, you shall not stay alone
Till holy church incorporate two in one” Lines 34 – 37
In Act III Scene 3 Friar Lawrence finds Romeo outside his cell and asks him to come in, Romeo most likely came to confess or just to find out what was going to happen to him. Friar Lawrence has to tell Romeo about the news, the Friar thinks that the news is better then what was expected, but Romeo argues about it. Stating that banishment from Verona is worse than death.
“’Tis torture and not mercy. Heaven is here
Where Juliet lives, and every cat and dog
And little mouse, every unworthy thing,
Live here in heaven and may look on her,
But Romeo may not.” Lines 29 – 33
Romeo compares himself to the unworthy things, like cats, dogs, mice and rats and says they can be in heaven where Juliet lives but he can’t. Romeo calls Verona heaven as he thinks of Juliet as an angel. Banishment to Romeo is worse then death, its like torture to him! Friar Lawrence realises that Romeo needs consoling, and tries to help him. The Friar tells Romeo that he will help him through his banishment, by offering him his wisdom.
Romeo tells Friar Lawrence that he does not want his philosophy, unless it’ll help him get his Juliet back. The Friar tells Romeo off, as he is really angry with Romeo as all he does is weep like a woman and tried to commit suicide.
“Hold they desperate hand.
Art thou a man? Thy form cries out thou art.” Lines 7-8
Friar Lawrence starts off angry with Romeo as he tried to commit Suicide but soon changes to a more calm and sympathetic tone to Romeo as he sees that shouting at him isn’t helping the situation,
“The law that threatened death becomes thy friend
And turns it to exile. There art thou happy.” Lines 138 – 139
Friar Lawrence tries to get Romeo to see the positive side of his banishment, as he still has the opportunity to get back together with Juliet and he will still have a life. He tells Romeo to see Juliet for one last time before he heads off to Mantua.
“Ascend her chamber – hence, and comfort her.
But look thou stay not till the watch be set,
For then thou canst not pass to Mantua,
Where thou shalt live till we can find a time
To blaze your marriage, reconcile your friends,
Beg pardon of the Prince and call thee back,” Lines 146 – 151
He tells Romeo to go and console Juliet and get there fast, because he can only stay until just before the watch is or he can’t get out of Verona, and will be stuck in Lord Capulet’s house. Romeo heads off to say goodbye to Juliet.
Meanwhile Capulet arranges the wedding for Juliet to Paris they both agree on Thursday. This puts more pressure on the Friar to get a plan to help Romeo and Juliet. It also shows the harshness and lack of thought Lord Capulet gives to his daughter Juliet.
“Monday! Ha ha! Well, Wednesday is too soon.
A’ Thursday let it be, a’ Thursday, tell her,
She shall be married to this noble earl.
Will you be ready? Do you like this haste?
This shows that Capulet has more thought for how Paris feels about the early wedding, than how Juliet feels about being married to Paris. This proves that all the blame should not be placed just on Friar Lawrence. Also some blame on Lord Capulet, as his stubbornness and lack of thought for his daughter, indirectly killed Romeo, Juliet, Paris and it may be argued that he also is slightly responsible for the deaths of Tybalt and Mercutio. I think this because if he had not forced Juliet into marriage, the Friar would not have needed to use such a risky plan and could have announced their wedding.
“Hang thee young baggage, disobedient wretch!
I tell thee what – get thee to church a’ Thursday
Or never after look me in the face.” Lines 160 - 163
In Act IV Scene 1 Paris has arrived at Friar Lawrence’s cell to make arrangements for the wedding, the Friar is desperately trying to postpone the wedding without making it obvious.
“You say you do not know the lady’s mind.
Uneven is the course. I like it not.” Lines 4 – 5
Friar Lawrence asks how Paris can marry Juliet when he doesn’t know how she feels about the wedding, he also tells Paris to delay the wedding and get to know Juliet a bit better. But Paris does not want to defy Capulet’s idea. When Juliet arrives she does not speak clearly to Paris but instead speaks in riddles. She does this, as she does not wish to speak to him clearly.
When Paris leaves Juliet tells Friar Lawrence to shut the door and help her find a way out of this.
“O shut the door, and when thou hast done so,
Come weep with me, past hope, past cure, past help!”
Lines 44 – 45
Juliet threatens the Friar, that if he does not find a way to help stop the wedding, she will kill herself in his cell. Friar Lawrence would be very worried at this moment as if she kills herself in his cell he would be held responsible for her death. I think that at this moment he would want to get her out of his cell before she kills herself, so he gives her a potion that will apparently fake her death.
In Act IV Scene 3 Juliet takes the potion, this proves she has a lot of faith in the Friar. Not many people would drink an unknown substance, especially from some one so distant from her. She does have some doubts but is too desperate not to try anything.
“What if this mixture do not work at all?
Shall I be married then tomorrow morning? Lines 21 - 23
No! No! This shall forbid it. Lie though there.” [She lays down a knife]
Juliet did have some qualms about drinking the potion, but proceeds, as she would rather die then marry Paris. Plus she trusts Friar Lawrence a lot, as she sees him as a wiser person then her.
In Act IV Scene 5 Friar Lawrence comes to marry Juliet to Paris, but already knows that she is most likely in a faked death. He has to act well in this scene as he has to pretend he know not that Juliet is dead.
“Come, is the bride ready to go to church?” Line 33
Friar Lawrence tells lord Capulet and the rest of his family to prepare the body for the Funeral, as the Friar needs Juliet to be in the tomb quickly as the countdown has already started ticking for when she will awake.
“Dry up your tears, and stick your rosemary
On this fair corse, and, as the custom is,
All in her best array bear her to church.” Lines 79 – 82
In Act V Scene 1 we find out that the friar’s message to Romeo was unable to be delivered. We do not hear this from Friar John telling Friar Lawrence, but we find out when Balthasar, Romeo’s servant, tells Romeo about Juliet’s death, Friar Lawrence’s letter has not reached Romeo and the repercussions are starting to happen. Romeo is extremely upset and decides to go and commit suicide in Capulet’s vault, and be with Juliet forever in heaven. Romeo goes to the apothecary to purchase a deadly poison.
In Act V Scene 2, Friar John tells Friar Lawrence that he was unable to deliver the letter to Romeo because the guards in Mantua thought his friend had the plague because he had been seen visiting people with it. The guards would not let either if them past. I don’t think it is fair to blame Friar John as he did not know of the urgency of the letter and it was not his fault he was not aloud in Mantua. Friar Lawrence realises that his plan is going wrong and decides to head off to the Capulet tomb, so when Juliet wakes he can keep her in his cell until he can get a message off to Romeo.
In Act V Scene 3 the last scene of the play, Paris and his page are in a graveyard within which lays the Capulet’s tomb. They are here with flowers, and Paris seems to want to open Juliet’s tomb. Romeo and Balthasar arrive. Romeo pays Balthasar and starts to break into the Capulet’s tomb. Paris tries to stop Romeo, and prepares to fight.
“Stop thy unhallowed toil, vile Montague.
Can vengeance be pursued further then death?
Condemned villain, I do apprehend thee.” Lines 54 – 56
Paris proves to be quite strong in this scene, he even gets a bit of respect off Romeo after Romeo kills Paris he lies him next to the Capulet’s tomb.
Romeo then drinks the potion after a very long and romantic speech, and dies. Friar Lawrence is in a hurry to get to the tomb, and stumbles over a grave. This would have been very ironic to Elizabethan people as stumble was classed as bad luck, so stumbling over a grave would have been a very bad omen, probably meaning death as it was over a grave. Romeo also stumbled as he was leaving the friar’s cell after he’d agreed to marry Romeo and Juliet, this would have been interpreted as something bad was going to happen to the marriage.
“Saint Francis be my speed. How oft tonight
Have my old feet stumbled at graves. Who’s there?” Lines 121 – 122
Friar Lawrence enters the tomb and finds Romeo and Paris both dead in the tomb and Juliet awakens to find that Romeo is dead. Friar Lawrence tells Juliet that the watch is coming and that she would be ok if she comes with him. She could live in a nunnery, this doesn’t appeal to Juliet as she wishes to be with Romeo. The Friar gets worried and leaves after asking her to come with him.
“Stay not to question, for the Watch is coming.
Come, go, good Juliet. I dare no longer stay.” Lines 158 – 159
Juliet tells Friar Lawrence that she will not leave. He exits the tomb and leaves her alone, for the Watch or others to find her, I think this is a very cowardice move. This shows that Friar Lawrence cares too much about himself. Juliet after failing to find any poison from the vial Romeo drank from, she stabs herself.
After searching the graveyard, the Watch find Friar Lawrence and tell him to say what happened. Friar Lawrence speaks the truth but bends it, to make him sound innocent.
“And she, too desperate, would not go with me” Line 263
Friar Lawrence in my opinion did not spend enough time with Juliet after she awoke, he should have tried a bit harder to get her thinking straight and to leave with him. She had just seen her husband dead so she would have been herself.
In conclusion I think that no single person could be held fully responsible for the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet. I found out that Friar Lawrence towards the end of the play became very two faced and only cared about himself, most likely because he realised he was in too deep and panicked. He did seem however to have a caring and understanding into the wellbeing of Romeo and Juliet. Also Lord Capulet can be blamed as well, if he had not forced Juliet into marrying Paris things would have been a lot better and the marriage of Romeo and Juliet may have brought peace to the too families. Instead Lord Capulet’s lack of thought and respect for his daughter’s well being ended up in many indirect deaths.
I personally think that Friar Lawrence and Lord Capulet are responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, but fate could well have taken place and these star crossed lovers may still have died.