Monday, March 26, 2012

Romeo and Juliet- Is Friar Lawrence Guilty of Murder?

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Is Friar Lawrence Guilty Of Murder?

The story of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a tragedy of two star-crossed lovers who cannot be together because of a feud between their families. With the help of Romeo’s trusted ally Friar Lawrence they marry, but within a couple of hours Romeo slays Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin.

Romeo is then banished to Mantua and cannot be with Juliet. Friar Lawrence has to think fast and decides on an elaborate plan which involves Juliet taking a dangerous potion. Tragedy follows and the lovers die.

Friar Lawrence is a friend to the Montague’s and an ally to Romeo and Juliet. He is Romeo’s spiritual father and his role model. Romeo tries not to disappoint him. Friar Lawrence is not a worldly man and doesn’t always think ahead. He is na├»ve and acts on impulse a lot. He plays a large part in the tragic development of the story.

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We first meet Friar Lawrence a few hours after the ball at the Capulet’s house. The Friar is tending to his herbs which he does lots of experiments with. I think that maybe this is what Friar Lawrence did to Romeo and Juliet. A human experiment. When Romeo comes in he talks to him and calls him ‘young son’ which shows how close they are and the depth of feeling shown towards Romeo.

‘Within the infant rind of this weak flower, poison hath residence and medicine power…

…And where the worser is predominant, full soon the, canker death eats up the plant.’

In this quote Friar Lawrence states the destructive and healing power of medicines. This could be interpreted to his relationship with Romeo and Juliet. He was in a position of power and his actions relating to Romeo and Juliet could not improve their happiness but could destroy them, if this power was used incorrectly.

Friar Lawrence’s first mistake was allowing Romeo to persuade him into marrying the couple. The Friar was stupid agreeing to marry Romeo and Juliet but in the back of his mind he did think it was a bit sudden. At first when Romeo told Friar Lawrence that he wanted to get married, the Friar thought it would be to Rosaline, he said ‘Is Rosaline that thou didst love so dear’. When he found out that it was Juliet that Romeo loved, he thinks that Romeo is fickle. He says ‘Lo, here upon thy cheek the stain doth sit of an old tear that is not washed off yet’ which means the feelings Romeo felt for Rosaline are still in him, just like the tears he cried for her are still on his cheek.

In my opinion the Friar was a little single minded in his judgement of the situation, he was not looking at Romeo and Juliet as people but as tools to help him unite their feuding families.

He actually says ‘In one respect I’ll thy assistant be for this alliance may so happy prove to turn your households rancour to pure love.’ Which means that this wedding and Romeo and Juliet’s love could turn the families hate into love. When the day of the wedding comes Friar Lawrence starts to get a bit worried, he begins to give the couple advice. ’Wisely and slow they stumble that run fast.’ This quote sums up all the Friars problems, perhaps if he’d taken his own advice and not allowed Romeo and Juliet to rush into their marriage they might have lived. He is very hypocritical. He also says ‘These violent delights have violent ends.’ By this the Friar means that with everything good comes something bad. I think, if the Friar was unsure and didn’t think they should get married this quickly he should have told them.

Within an hour after the wedding Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin Tybalt and is banished from Verona. Romeo goes to see the Friar to talk about what has happened. He wants to kill himself because he can’t see Juliet but the Friar tries to talk him out of it. He tells Romeo that there is a wide world out there and anything could happen. ‘ The world is broad and wide’. Romeo does not want to listen to the Friar, he says ‘hang up philosophy’. The Friar persists and eventually talks him out of it.

Just when he has stopped Romeo killing himself Juliet arrives in distress. Juliet says ‘Come weep with me-past hope, past cure, past help.’ She tells the Friar to help her or she will kill herself. She says ‘Give me some present counsel, or behold, Twist my extremes and me this bloody knife.’ The Friar does well in talking the lovers out of death. The blame at this point in time is not on Friar Lawrence but on Mercucio, Tybalt and a lesser part on Romeo.

Juliet’s parents mistakenly took Juliet’s misery for Romeo to be for her dead cousin and arranged for her to marry a young man by the name of Paris. Juliet was even more upset by this. Friar Lawrence has to think quickly and decides on a plan which on the good side will make Juliet seem dead for 48 hours. But on the bad side will involve giving a potentially dangerous and harmful drug to a 14-year-old girl. In doing this the Friar risked Juliet’s life just to stop her marrying Paris. The second part of the Friars plan was to send a letter to Romeo explaining the situation. Friar Lawrence chooses to send the letter with Friar John but decides not to tell him its important contense and the urgency to which it got to its recipient. In my opinion this was one of the Friars worst mistakes but it wasn’t his entire fault. He wasn’t to know of the disease in Mantua, which prevented Friar John from giving Romeo the letter. If the Friar sent the message of this situation earlier, Romeo would have been aware that Juliet was under the influence of medicine and therefor would not have committed suicide. Once Friar Lawrence received news that the letter did not get to Romeo he should have rushed to the tomb to wait for Juliet to wake. Sadly he got there too late so did not prevent the tragic deaths of Romeo and Paris. The Friar did get there in time to prevent Juliet’s death but failed because he was scared by a noise and left. Juliet took Romeo’s sword and thrust it into her heart. At the end of the play the Friar explained his part in the events. He says the words ‘and here I stand both to impeach and purge, myself condemned and myself excused’.

Unfortunately the Friar’s one deception at the start of the play led to all of this misery. Had he not married Romeo and Juliet they probably would have got on with their lives without each other but the two families would still be fighting. To the Friars defence maybe Romeo would get caught up in the fighting and die anyway. Friar Lawrence did some stupid things and some good things. The Friar married Romeo and Juliet with the intent to bring peace between the two families. As a result of this Romeo and Juliet died and the two families stopped fighting. Why did Friar Lawrence marry the couple? Maybe they were just pawns in the Friar’s plans to unite the families or maybe he really cared for them and wanted their love to flourish. In my opinion the Friar is just an ordinary man who was faced with unusual problems and handled them to the best of his ability. Yes he did things wrong but he just wanted to please everyone.

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