Throughout the play, Shakespeare employs dramatic irony since Friar Lawrence is one of the only characters along with the character of the nurse who enables the audience to access to their secret uniting: the wedding ceremony which was carried out under Romeo’s request ‘to marry us today’ (Act 2, Sc 3, line 64); without the families knowing. However, Friar Lawrence is taken aback by his first reactions, but his intentions conclude what is to come.
Friar Lawrence has what may be called a sense of destiny: he feels it is in his power to alter the cause of history, which impels him to agree to conduct the marriage ceremony in the hopes of that it might turn families ‘rancour to pure love’ (Act 2, Sc 3, line 92)-an extremely optimistic, even naïve, veiewpoint, and certainly not to be rushed into. He is right, though the play never ended in the way he had anticipated. Despite his prophetic reservations that ‘These violet delights have violet delights have violet ends’ (Act 2, Scene 6, line 9), he unites the pair in marriage. The marriage is the main step Friar Lawrence performed which concretes the relationship between Romeo and Juliet; had Romeo and Juliet not married, the plot later in the play should not have been complicated or might never have happened. Therefore, the character of Friar Lawrence can be seen as a pivotal role that can turn and twist situations around which affects the whole plot to another direction; his character is also major, as it can be seen by the audience that the plot is created as a result of the actions of the character of the Friar.
The characters and the audience rely so much on the Friar that it is forgotten what might happen in the long term; consequently it only ignites a change of direction in the plot when plans don’t go accordingly. The Friar’s original plans of reuniting the two families soon come to a grief when the Friar understands of the banishment of Romeo.
Romeo’s actions of avenge and rage turned the tensions between the families even tighter; it was his responsibility to control his actions and again, think of the long term consequences of his actions. Thus, it was Romeo’s responsibility to be responsible of his own actions and not cause any chaos to future plans. What Romeo did was morally right because his actions were out of rage and perhaps to an Elizabethan/ a Jacobean audience, if Romeo did not have reacted, he would have been categorized as a coward and could have been viewed as being disloyal to his friends. On the other hand, Shakespeare portrays the character of Friar Lawrence virtually strongly. This continues to keep the audience to trust the Friar of his decisions and again for the characters to rely on him. Regardless of what had happened we understand that Friar continues to create plans for the future; it may be seen as a prophetic future that he may know that it is to come, but it can be doubted as the plans made earlier did not go to plan. It is very easy to blame the Friar when his plans don’t work accordingly which may be seen as his responsibility for what has happened. However, some of the plans of the Friar are not complex and are simply straightforward; this is evident when the Friar says to Romeo ‘to blaze your marriage, reconcile your friends, Beg pardon of the Prince, and call thee back’ (Act 2, Sc 3, line 150-51). The use of imperatives shows his status and how he finds respect through other characters especially the pair who looks up to him: Romeo and Juliet.
Likewise, it comes to the attention of the audience that Juliet also seeks assistance from the Friar after Romeo is away in Act 4, Scene 1; portraying that both Romeo and Juliet comes to Friar for their rescue. His character can be seen as someone who is trying to complete a mission with a lot of obstacles on the way- to reunite the two families together through Romeo and Juliet. When Juliet is faced with another dilemma from her parents: to arrange marriage Paris immediately as a sign to the family of his possession to others by her parents when she’s already married (although the parent’s are not aware of this); it is then when the plans get highly risky when Friar Lawrence gives Juliet a sleeping potion to pretend death to her parents as if she has unexpectedly died the night before the marriage. Though it seems as a very cleverly thought idea, again, the audience, Juliet and the Friar forgets of what might happen if the plan doesn’t work out in long term but of whether the sleeping potion will kill her. The cynical might wonder if the Friar might at this stage be thinking as much about himself to Juliet. Certainly, to Juliet this typical thought does cross her mind as she takes the potion, wandering if he has poisoned her ‘Lest…he should be dishonoured/ because he married me before to Romeo?’ (Act 4, Sc 3, lines 16-7). At the time, such thought may have been typical for a woman to have because men were regarded to be superior to women and they were able to take decisions without the women’s awareness. However, Juliet neglects her thoughts and reminds herself that ‘he hath still been tried a holy man’ (Act 4, Sc 3, line 29); character trust is portrayed in this situation by Shakespeare repeatedly to show the reliance between Juliet with the Friar. Previously in the play, Juliet also trusted the Friar to keep the marriage secretive and only keep it between themselves and the nurse. However, although Juliet trusts the Friar, her strong attachment can be seen as if it has grown her out of fears; in Act 4, Scene 1 when Juliet threatens to suicide ‘And with this knife I’ll help it presently’, if the Friar has not got a solution to abort the marriage between Juliet and Paris.
The nurse is also another character where Shakespeare employs dramatic irony to show the audience as well as who Juliet relies on. She is happy to give her full support to continue and grow the relationship between Romeo and Juliet however; she has no intention of a result of their relationship upon the family unlike the Friar who had motifs and wanted to put an end to the family feud through their marriage. In social aspects, an audience: Elizabethan/ Jacobean or modern, the nurse being part of the marriage might be seen as unacceptable or as taking away the rights of Juliet’s parents. Having said that, it also could be argued that the nurse is much closer to Juliet and is aware of a lot more of her insecurities and that she maybe the one who knows what is right for her. This is evident in the play when Juliet seeks comfort after receiving bad news of Romeo’s banishment and the nurse get’s Romeo to spend the night with Juliet : ‘ Hie to your chamber: I'll find Romeo To comfort you: I wot well where he is’ (Act 3, Sc 2)
When the Friar had planned what is to be done, dramatic tension is increased fast as curiosity of the audience and the characters, of whether the plan will work are questioned. However, as from the beginning of the play, Shakespeare uses rhyming couplets ‘night…light’ and antithesis’s such as ‘ What is her burying grave, that is her womb’ (Act 2, Sc 3, line 10) in Friar Lawrence’s dialogues which suggests that the Friar is a character who has a balanced, reasoned and a open-minded view of the world and humanity. The rhyming couplets give fluidity to the soliloquy which suggests that what this character is saying is logical as his point moves cohesively from one point to the next. Also, his line ‘none but for some, and yet all different’ (Act 2, Sc 3, line 14) implies that this is a character who can see good in everyone- a very different person from the blinkered and feuding Capulets and Montagues.
In conclusion, I personally believe that Friar Lawrence is not fully responsible of the deaths of Romeo and Juliet as he had motifs and helped the two lovers to be together much time as possible. He knew that they were destined to be together that nothing could put them apart even in death they both die in each others arms. His motifs were accomplished although not in the way he originally hoped it to be. Therefore, Friar Lawrence was responsible of the deaths only to a certain extent, because without his consecutive plans, the play would not have ended this way or the reuniting of the two families might never have happened.