Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a tragic play in which a pair of star-crossed lovers commit suicide, when their family’s feud won’t let them be together. There are many characters in this play that contribute to keeping the plot line, one of whom is Friar Lawrence. Throughout the play Friar Lawrence is a tool used by Shakespeare to foreshadow events and is shown to be a reckless character whose inability to trust his instincts and lack of thought for the welfare of the two lovers leads to much death and despair.
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Friar Lawrence is depicted as a wise man who attempts to guide Romeo throughout the play, but does not follow the advice he himself gives, which leads to the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet’s deaths. In the beginning of the play Friar Lawrence declares, “Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied,”  which foreshadows that although Friar Lawrence understands how good intentions can swiftly transform into bad outcomes, he later decides to carry out his plan to bring Romeo and Juliet together, displaying his recklessness. When Romeo asks Friar Lawrence to marry him to Juliet, the Friar agrees, hoping “to turn [their] households’ rancour to pure love”  . However, he also warns Romeo, “Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast,”  advising Romeo that if he hastily marries Juliet there will be many consequences and he should put more thought into this decision, not rush into the marriage. Therefore, although his intent is good, in that he wants to bring two lovers together, his actions result in both their untimely deaths. His following words, “And vice sometimes by action dignified,”  foreshadow Friar Lawrence providing the poison potion used by Juliet in act 4. The ‘vice’ (poison) is necessary (‘by action dignified’) because it is the hope of a life with Romeo he can give an otherwise suicidal Juliet.
Throughout the play Friar Lawrence is used as a tool by Shakespeare to foreshadow events. When Friar Lawrence is first seen, he is tending to his plants and talking to himself about how even “within the infant rind of this weak flower/ Poison hath residence.”  In his soliloquy he is talking about how malice and misfortune hide in the best and most innocent of intents. This in itself foreshadows the role Friar Lawrence is to play and the series of events that are effectively a result of his inability to act responsibly and follow his intuition. For example, he knows that marrying Romeo to Juliet in secret is wrong and may result in some very violent consequences on the part of both their families since the latter happen to be feuding. He foreshadows the violence to come when he says, “So smile the heavens upon this holy act/ That after-hours with sorrow chide us not,”  where he refers to the horrors to come as divine retribution for this act. Furthermore, before the Friar marries Romeo and Juliet, he warns Romeo that “violent delights have violent ends.”  This in turn foreshadows the violent ending of the play, emphasized by the repetition of the word ‘violent’.
Friar Lawrence seems to be more like a friend than a father figure to Romeo. A father figure would be more responsible and probably wouldn’t know the details of Romeo’s personal life. For example, the quote, “wast thou with Rosaline?”  shows Friar Lawrence knows about Romeo’s ‘love’ for Rosaline, whereas we never do find out if Lord Montague knows or knew. Moreover, when Romeo comes to the Friar with his request for marriage, the Friar responds with, “In one respect I’ll thy assistant be,”  which suggests that he is more of a friend than a father figure. A father figure would be more likely to warn Romeo of the hastiness of this decision and of his fickle nature, and would not agree to bind the couple together in matrimony. Friar Lawrence, however, agrees far too readily to be at all responsible, and so can be seen as more of a friend to Romeo. Also, Friar Lawrence hardly knows Juliet. When he exclaims “O Juliet, I already know thy grief,”  he only thinks he knows how she must feel upon hearing of Romeo’s exile. He has not been her confessor, and he only knows her through Romeo. He has presumably only met her once, and that is when he is marrying her to Romeo. What gives him the right to be playing around with the lives of these two young lovers? Not to mention, the life of Paris? He hardly gives a thought towards the consequences of his actions and is thus a reckless and irresponsible man.
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In conclusion, Friar Lawrence is an important character in the course of the play. He is used by Shakespeare to foreshadow the violent events in the play, such as the deaths of several characters and the ending itself. Although he appears to be a wise old man, he is shown to be reckless and irresponsible. Moreover, theme of duality in nature and in the nature of the characters is best displayed in the form of Friar Lawrence. He says or advises one thing, and does another, all in the space of a few minutes.
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