The Role of Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet





Throughout history never has there been a piece of literature as well known for its tragic end as that of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Although many factors contribute to the grief and misfortune that this play represents, human actions play the principle role in the final outcome. At first glance, one may look over the character of Friar Laurence dismissing him as only a minor player in the plot. However, upon closer examination, it becomes obvious that the Friar plays an essential role in the development of the play and, although has good intentions, is responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.
When Friar Laurence agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet, he does so for the wrong reasons, thus, he betrays the ethics of his position. Romeo considers Friar Laurence someone he can confide in, and so, tells him of his newfound love, Juliet, right away. The Friar is convinced that Romeo cannot possibly be in love as it was not long ago he spoke of his fascination with Rosaline. Nowhere is this more apparent than when he states:
Holy Saint Francis, what a change is here!
Is Rosaline, whom thou didst love so dear
So soon forsaken? Young men\'s love then lies
Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes. (2.3.65-68)
This statement is important as it shows the Friar does not truly believe in the affection between the two lovers and that he believes Romeo cares only about the looks of Juliet. The Friar claims, “…this alliance may so happy prove/To turn [their] households\' rancour to pure love”(2.4.90-93) yet he denies his responsibilities by failing to notify anyone of the large secret he holds. It is obvious that Friar Laurence is not simply ignorant of the potential disaster being created but plainly disregarding it when he states, “These violent delights have violent ends/And in their triumphs die, like fire and powder”(2.6.9-10). The Friar’s willingness to ignore such strong predictions of death for the mere possibility of a good outcome, for which he will be recognized, shows his appalling judgement as well as his distorted morals.
Another example of how Friar Laurence’s actions lead to tragedy is his attempt to aid Juliet in a way that cannot be defended as rational. Allowing Juliet to technically kill herself is reckless as well as unintelligent. The Friar supports his entire plan with a letter to Romeo and makes his plan in such a hustle, that he has not taken the time to consider possible consequences, or an alternate plan. Friar Laurence does not stress the importance of this letter and as a result, Friar John does not make a second attempt to deliver the news to Romeo. Also, when Friar Laurence receives the news that Romeo is not informed of his plan, he still fails to take action. If the Friar were to proceed sooner, he would have several options, he could warn Romeo of what is happening, or possibly go to someone for help. Instead, the Friar acts foolishly and states:
Unhappy fortune! By my brotherhood,
The letter was not nice but full of charge
Of dear import, and the neglecting it
May do much danger. (5.2.17-20).
The fact that the Friar waits until after the situation is fully developed to notify Friar John of the importance of the letter is another prime example of why the plan is a failure. When Romeo hears that Juliet is dead, he blames fate for taking Juliet’s life, making this highly recognizable statement, “Is it e’en so? Then I defy you, stars!” (5.1.24). Romeo then hurries to Juliet’s vault where he drinks his recently obtained poison and dies beside his love. Although Romeo kills himself, it is essential to remember that if Romeo were to receive the letter from Friar John, his state of mind and actions would be entirely different. Therefore, the suicide of Romeo is caused solely by the errors of the Friar.
Finally, Friar Laurence’s terrible selfish acts during many important occasions help bring forth the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. The Friar arrives at Juliet’s tomb just in time to see her awake with Romeo, and Paris dead by her side. His only attempt to inform Juliet of what has happened and comfort her is:
...Come, come away.
Thy husband in thy