The Shortsighted Friar Lawrence in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

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Romeo and Juliet is Shakespeare's first authentic tragedy. It is about two lovers who commit suicide when their feuding families prevent them from being together. The play has many characters, each with its own role in keeping the plot line. Some characters have very little to do with the plot; but some have the plot revolving around them. While the character of Friar Lawrence spends only a little time on stage, he is crucial to the development of the conclusion of the play. It is Friar Laurence’s good intentions, his willingness to take risks and his shortsightedness that lead to the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. Friar Lawrence does not have very much time on stage, but the time he does have is crucial to the plot line. Through his words, Friar Lawrence demonstrates that he is well intentioned, yet sometimes shortsighted, and is not afraid to take risks to help others. He may do something out of the ordinary, if he thinks the outcome will help someone for whom he cares. For example, when he says "In one respect I'll thy assistant be;/ for this alliance may so happy prove, / to turn your households rancor to pure love" (II.iii.97-99), he is saying that the only reason he will marry Romeo and Juliet is that he hopes that the marriage will end the hostilities between the two houses. When he says "Shall Romeo by my letters know our drift, / and hither shall he come; and he and I/ shall watch thy waking, and that very night/ shall Romeo bear thee to Mantua" (IV.i.116-119), his intention is clearly to comfort and reassure Juliet. Unfortunately, for all his good intentions, the play still ends in tragedy. Friar Lawrence is a man who is not afraid to take risks to help someone; as, in Act 2, Scene 6, when he marries Romeo and Juliet, he is risking his reputation as a Friar, so he can help the two lovers. Also, when he says, "Take thou this vial, being then in bed, / and this distilled liquor drink thou off" (IV.i.95-96), he is suggesting that Juliet drink a potion so that she might feign her own death and avoid marrying Paris. This was an extremely risky thing to do because anything might happen to Juliet while she was unconscious. Even after all he did to help Romeo and Juliet, the play still ended in tragedy because of Friar Lawrence’s' shortsightedness.

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