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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. It is Friar Lawrence’s recklessness in his actions and his faulty plans that eventually comes to an end in total failure. To the end, his weak character comes out when he utters timidly, “I dare no longer stay.” (5.3.159), abandons Juliet to fate and flees the tomb.The misfortune of the whole play begins when Friar Lawrence decides to put Romeo and Juliet together as a mean of reuniting the two rival families through marriage. Even though Lawrence understands that Romeo’s love is “doting” (2.3.82) and “lies not truly in [their] hearts, but in [their] eyes.” (2.3.68), he “incorporate[s] two in one” (2.6.38) as he genuinely believes that their relationship would have great the potential for the public good. It is always Lawrence’s faith that even evil deeds could be useful. His statementMany for many virtues excellent,None but for some, and yet all different. (2.3.13-14)is an evident of such a state of mind. With this strong belief, Friar Lawrence witnesses the marriage in the hope that the feud would end peacefully without considering all the possible consequences which may arise after the marriage becomes publicly known. The marriage of Romeo and Juliet is the trigger which sets off the events that soon follow; even though Lawrence’s intention is good, his irresponsible act is essential to the plot of the whole play.After Tybalt’s death, Friar Lawrence’s scheme is again being challenged when Juliet is forced to marry Paris. Trying his best to resolve the situation, Lawrence encourages Romeo in escaping to Mantua and proposes another plan to avoid Juliet’s remarriage. He prepares a drug that “shuts up the day of life” (4.1.101) for Juliet to take in order to fake her death. This ironically suggests the lover’s death as the drug at last did kill Juliet when the fake death becomes real at the end. The whole plan solely depends on a letter addressed to Romeo, which at last fails to reach its recipient. Because of his carelessness and poor communication skill, not only his endeavour to reconcile the two hostile families comes to grief, but he also contributed to the death of Romeo and Juliet.His delayed arrival at the “monument” (5.2.24) has resulted in the death of Romeo, who drinks poison without knowing the plan. Furthermore, it is Friar Lawrence’s own selfishness to leave Juliet in the tomb and ‘save his own skin’, saying “stay not to question, for the watch is coming.” (5.3.158) If he had gone to Juliet’s tomb earlier and had accompanied her to the end, the couple’s lives could have been saved and the mishap could have been avoided. Friar Lawrence plays a significant part in the growth of the play. His lack of preparation and his cowardice finally results in the suicide of Romeo and Juliet did violence on herself.Judging from what he has done, we can see that Friar Lawrence is the root of the whole tragedy. He secretly marries the two lovers, spirits Romeo to Mantua and stages Juliet’s death. To the end, it is his cowardice that leads to Juliet’s death. Upon closer examination, it can be argued that Friar Lawrence has not totally engaged in every incident that leads to the final catastrophe as well. Although Lawrence comes up with all those flawed plans and also confesses that the disaster is “miscarried by [my] fault” (5.3.266), he is not involved in the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt.Without this fulcrum scene, Romeo would not have been banished while Juliet would not have been forced to marry Paris. Subsequently, Friar Lawrence would not have had to falsify Juliet’s death or arrange Romeo’s escape to Mantua. As a result, the whole tragedy could have been prevented. Moreover, it can also be claimed that Friar Lawrence is not solely responsible for Romeo’s death. Could Romeo not secure the poison from an apothecary, his suicide in the last scene of the play might never come into existences. Therefore, it can be argued that the whole plot is predestined, whereas Lawrence is the one who is trying to ‘save’ the couples.Notwithstanding his fragile personality, Lawrence is shown to be a brave man in some aspects. Even though he is portrayed as a coward for leaving Juliet behind, he is nevertheless a heroic character who support the foes while risking his own life. He is always keen to resolve the arguments between two families, which he fearlessly agrees with the marriage of Romeo and Juliet. Later on, when the plan crumbles, he courageously offers to sort everything out for the couple. He urges Juliet to stay in his cell while he contacts Romeo. Friar Lawrence valiantly stands out and aids the couple in the whole play, despite the fact that he is likely to get into trouble when the two influential families find out about the truth. We can thus say that Friar Lawrence is not the one to blame, he is the ‘peacemaker’ of the plot who tries to make things right.This directs us to consider, if Friar Lawrence is not the one to blame, what is behind the stage that influences the whole plot. 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. Lacking concern from his father and family love, Romeo is detached from Elizabethan’s thinking and is inclined to look for a substitute parent instead.Contrary to Lord Montague, Lawrence shows real concern to Romeo and is ready to provide comments throughout. This is reflected in his dialogue with Romeo, “In one respect I’ll thy assistant be.” (2.3.90) As Romeo is desperate to find a reliable person to express his emotions, Friar Lawrence becomes his substitute father where Romeo takes his advices seriously. Having huge influence on Romeo, Lawrence is then able to carry out his disastrous plans. Trusted and respected by the two foes, Friar Lawrence is addressed as a “ghostly father” (2.3.45) (2.6.21) and acts as their neutral advisor.For instance, he comforts the banished Romeo who might never see Juliet again, speaking mildly, “This is dear mercy, and thou seest it not.” (3.3.28) He then provides an escape plan for Romeo, which is yet another doomed move. Juliet also seeks his helping hand when she is forced to marry Paris. (3.5.240) Friar Lawrence is always there during tragic moments. When Romeo is about to stab himself with a dagger, the cleric stops him immediately and shouts “Hold thy desperate hand. / Art thou a man?” (3.3.107-8). Being close to Romeo and Juliet, Friar Lawrence knows each of them even in greater depth than their actual parents. He even knows about Romeo’s ex-lover, Rosaline (2.3.44) and Romeo’s love of Juliet (2.3.57-8). Both lovers put faith onto the cleric and all along act on his advice. Their relationships are vital elements for the development of the play.Although Friar Lawrence takes Romeo and Juliet to his heart, he himself dugs their graves for making impractical plans. He even foretells the lovers’ deaths when describing imageries in themes of love and death. This can be seen in a pun of Friar Lawrence. When the Friar advises Romeo in handling sexual relationship, love is “buried” (2.3.83) “in a grave” (2.3.84). The idea of love being “buried” suggests Romeo is not mature enough to distinguish between ‘like’ and ‘love’, and is warned to be cautious in handling these matters. Another example would be in his dialogue with Romeo: “Affliction is enamoured of thy parts,/And thou art wedded to calamity.” (3.3.2-3).In this metaphor, the ‘harmony’ marriage of Romeo and Juliet is compared with unhappiness and “calamity”, which is referring to the final disaster of the two lovers. Again, in Lawrence’s plan of faking Juliet’s death, love and death is linked together. Juliet’s love to Romeo is shown from her courage in “slay [thyself]” (4.1.72). This, however, requires her to “undertake … death” (4.1.74). In addition, love and death are connected in the dialogue between Friar Lawrence and Capulet when Juliet is ‘dead’: “Wedding cheer to sad burial feast” (4.5.87); “Our bridal flowers served for a buried corse” (4.5.89). The love in marriage shifts into death in funeral, where joy in wedding becomes sorrow in funeral; and “bridal flowers” turns into “rosemary” (4.5.79) for remembrance and death.The idea of ‘love’ and ‘death’ being linked together can also be found in the Prologue when it predicts the death of Romeo and Juliet. Although it is arranged in the form of a sonnet (a love poem), words used sound tragic and unfortunate. The phrase “death-marked love” ironically suggests the death of both lovers. The themes, love and death, is connected together throughout the play, reminding the audience the results of Romeo and Juliet’s love. Finally, at the end of the play, Shakespeare portrays the two suicides of both lovers as an illustration of intense love.In this play, Shakespeare has also introduced the element of ‘plant’ to introduce irony and reveal character’s thoughts. We find Friar Lawrence’s soliloquy expressing his impressions on flowers using extensive knowledge of herbalism,Within the infant rind of this weak flowerPoison hath residence, and medicine power;For this being smelt with that part cheers each part;Being tasted, stays all senses with the heart. (2.3.23-6)This rhyming couplets (AABB) effectively portrays the potent force of nature, also stresses Lawrence’s belief in negative intentions can have positive results if applied appropriately. The rhyming scheme creates a better flow of phrases, thus in a way making the idea more conspicuous. He later personifies flowers as human by saying people contain both “grace and rude will” (2.3.28) in their makeup. This is dramatic irony, suggesting that the marriage will heal the family “grudges”, but will take away the two lovers’ lives.Plants are depicted using oxymoron as the soliloquy continues. In Lawrence’s view, flowers are beneficial yet harmful on the other hand. This can be seen in his words, “baleful weeds, and precious-juiced flowers.” (2.3.8) Two contradicting terms, “baleful” and “precious”, are used in an expression, again emphasis his faith that everything can be both good and evil. Oxymoron can also been seen in Lawrence’s blank verse later on in the play. For instance,These violent delights have violent ends,And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,Which as they kiss consume. The sweetest honeyIs loathsome in his own deliciousness,And in the taste confounds the appetite (2.6.9-14)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.

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