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How much is The Friar to blame for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet? Free essay! Download now

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How much is The Friar to blame for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet?

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Downloads to date: N/A | Words: 3150 | Submitted: 18-Mar-2009
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Explores the reasons for the tragedy in "Romeo and Juliet" (Shakespeare)


On stage production was at its all time peak as society in those days suffered minimal social entertainment, and a trip to the theatre was one of the few aspects that could occupy the time of the public during that era. The audiences of Shakespeare’s plays thoroughly enjoyed scripts that involved humour, violence, sexual reference and a strong element of supernatural forces. During the Elizabethan era, society truly believed in tales of ghostly apparitions, witches, fairies and vampires etc. Shakespeare was well aware of the public’s hyper-physical views and so he was inclined to introduce such things into his plays to embrace the attention of the audience. The play "Romeo and Juliet" was originally thought of as a love story but Shakespeare cleverly called it a tragedy because he wanted to emphasise such components as most appealed to the audiences. Shakespeare also used specific characters to amuse or mystify the audience - and a prime example of such a character is Friar Lawrence from "Romeo and Juliet".

Friar Lawrence is a friar of the Order of Saint Francis and we have no reason to doubt his sincerity as a man of God. However, in the play his good intentions in fact precipitate the tragedy...

Friar Lawrence is a very well respected man in Verona, and he is completely trusted as a priest by the people who know of him. In the play he is close to the Montague family as he plays the part of Romeo’s mentor, offering him advice and friendship. At the point where Romeo requests Friar Lawrence’s authority and power to marry him and Juliet, he appears very cautious and wisely aware of the potential consequences:
"Young men's love then lies
Not truly in their hearts but in their eyes." (Act 2 scene iii)

However, within 20 lines of this utterance he is telling Romeo "I'll thy assistant be," contradicting his original opinion and agreeing to marry them because he thinks that the union will end the feud between the two rival houses. It seems remarkable that Friar Lawrence has been expressing his views to the love stricken teenager and trying to calm Romeo down because he knows that Romeo changes his mind on women too often. He forces Romeo to think more carefully and asks him if this marriage is really what he wants, even chastising Romeo for he has just been overwhelmingly depressed with losing Rosaline and now, but a day later, he has totally forgotten about her and has his sights set on Juliet. However, the marriage does go ahead in secret.

Unfortunately the newly wed Juliet has another marriage arranged for her - by her father, Lord Capulet. This means that Juliet also goes and visits Friar Lawrence in desperate search of some advice. With Romeo being banished for committing murder, her usual confidante, the fickle Nurse, has strongly advised her that the best thing for her to do is to fulfil her parent’s wishes and marry Paris and forget about banished Romeo. Juliet rejects the words of her childhood advisor but still needs the kindly advice of an older friend.

In the face of Juliet's extreme passion and threats to kill herself, the Friar panics: he composes a ‘last resort’ plan, which is for Juliet to evade the marriage by faking her own death. He does this by concocting a potion for Juliet to drink that will send her into a sleep so deep that it is hard to even detect a pulse. Friar Lawrence is then responsible for sending a letter to Romeo in Mantua explaining the plot.

In doing this, Friar Lawrence deceives the mourning Capulets and is able to take his own act even further by conducting the funeral for Juliet. However, Fate is not on his side. Friar Lawrence learns that the letter did not reach Romeo in Mantua and he begins to panic because if word gets back to Romeo that his wife is dead he may do something drastic. During these moments of horror and fear Friar Lawrence rushes to the burial tomb to wake the sleeping Juliet, but disturbingly Romeo’s dead body awaits him – Friar Lawrence was too late. Juliet awakens to discover her breathless love and despite Friar Lawrence’s scheme to try and runaway and cover up the tragedy, Juliet refuses to leave Romeo’s side where she then takes her own life.

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