How far is Friar Lawrence responsible for the ultimate deaths of Romeo and Juliet

Friar Lawrence is a Roman-Catholic priest who is a respected and trusted member of Italian society. People go to him to confess their sins. The Friar is important to Romeo as his father confessor. This means that Romeo feels he can trust the Friar and consequently confides in him. The Friar is told more than he should know. As a result of this role, the Friar carries out many actions central to the progress of the play. This means that he can be blamed for the tragedy to a certain extent.It is possible to argue that all the Friars actions were carried out with good intentions. To answer the question fully we need to look at these actions he carried out and their motives and explanations. However we must also consider that other characters bared responsibility and contributed to the deaths. It should also be considered that the tragic ending of the play may be due to the forces of fate than the actions of any particular character.Friar Lawrence plays an important role in this play. He represents the authority of the Church. His advice is respected by everyone in the play and it is to him that Romeo and Juliet go when they have a problem. He is a friend and “Father” to Romeo. However he is a priest and confessor to both Capulets and Monagues. His positive presentation of his character is clearly seen early in the play:”The grey-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night, Check’ring the eastern clouds with streaks of light…”The language of the play makes him appear both wise and knowledgeable:”What early tongue so sweet saluteth me? Young son, it argues a distempered head so soon to bid good morrow to thy bed.”The Friar performs many actions over the course of the play. The major part he plays in the lives of the couple is performing the marriage. He does this with full knowledge of the feud between the houses of Capulet and Montague. When Romeo is banished he comforts him by saying:”There art thou happy. Tybalt would kill thee; there art thou happy”The Friar also comforts Juliet when her cousin Tybalt is killed by Romeo, resulting in his exile.She has also discovered she is to be married to Paris. He sympathises with her and explains the problem by saying:”O Juliet, I already know the grief; It strains me past the compass of my wits. I hear thou must, and nothing may prorogue it, On Thursday next be married to this county”.The Friar comforts her and ensures her he will stop the marriage from occurring. This involves Juliet drinking a potion, which the Friar has prepared using his excellent knowledge of plants and herbs, introduced at the beginning of the play.When events go horribly wrong, the Friar attempts the save Juliet by telling her:”Come, I’ll dispose of thee among a sisterhood of holy nuns. Stay not to question, for the watch is coming”.The Friars motives for the actions he carries out seem genuine. When Romeo tells him about Juliet, he initially points out that Romeo is quick to fall in and out of love.”Holy Saint Francis! What a change is here. Is Rosaline, that thou didst love so dear so soon forsaken?”He offers Romeo sensible advice, telling him not to rush by saying:”They stumble that run fast”.Yet, the Friar still marries the couple the day after. Blatantly ignoring his own advice. When the Friar discovers the object of Romeo’s love, he sees an opportunity to end the feud between the families, He tells him that he will marry them as”For this alliance may so happy prove, To turn your households’ rancour to pure love”.When the Friar designs his plan for Juliet, it is an attempt to preserve the marriage of Juliet and Romeo; as Friar he could not allow divorce. Juliet is more that willing to go along with his plan, and he does not force her at any point. Indeed, she says:”And I will do it without fear or doubt”.Another reason for the Friar to encourage their marriage was to help Juliet avoid having to marry Paris. The Friar does sympathise with Juliet and offers his help:”O Juliet, I already know thy grief””Hold, daughter: I do spy a kind of hope”.The Friar appears to be genuinely fond of the young couple, and wishes for them to perceive his actions in a positive light. When he realises that Romeo has not received the important letter telling him of Juliet’s staged death, he tries to rectify the situation. One of his main concerns is that Juliet may be angry with him:”She will beshrew me much that Romeo hath had no notice of these accidents”.The Friar’s actions could be looked upon negatively. It appears he has a sense of superiority as he takes on the burden of the young couples secret. The Friar’s advice to Romeo about his love for Juliet was to take things slowly. This suggests that he had his doubts and wanted to be cautious. However, the Friar does not insist that they wait and rather seems to hurry them into the marriage, saying:”Come, couple with me, and we will make short work”.The Friar could be criticised for this as the couple had met only the previous night. Friar Lawrence looks for the respect and regard of others, and is afraid of his shortcomings being exposed in the event of failure, this shows when he leaves Juliet in the tomb in case of being caught by the guards, he tells her:”the watch is coming. Come, go, good Juliet; I dare no longer stay”before leaving her with her husbands dead body. It has to be said that the Friar should have been more cautious of Juliets mental stability here, than of his own security. It was irrational of him to leave her devastated and knowingly suicidal and perhaps we can fault him here. Although it is possible to view the Friar negatively, it could be argued that as a holy man and friend of Romeo, he only had their best interests at heart. However, as he was a holy man he would have failed in his role as Friar if he let them divorce, and so an elaborate plan was his only option.Upon examination, it appears that many characters in the play can be held to blame in various proportions for the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. The Friar did not actually have any part in the fights that led to Romeo’s exile. The fights started on a hot day, when Tybalt challenged Romeo, after finding out that Romeo had disgraced the Capulet name by sneaking into the costume party where the lovers first met. Mercutio instead fought Tybalt as Romeo sought peace between the two houses. Romeo tried to stop the fight by saying to Mercutio,”Gentle Mercutio, put thy rapier up”.Unfortunately, as Romeo tried to break up the sword right, Tybalt killed Mercutio. Mercutio cried:”A plague o’ both your houses”before he died. This brings the element of superstition in here. Mercutios curse could have resulted in the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. Being Mercutio’s best friend, Romeo avenged his death by killing Tybalt, before fleeing after realising what he had done saying:”O I am fortune’s fool.”Also involved was Juliet’s nurse, who arranged the marriage for Juliet alongside with the Friar and kept Juliet’s marriage hidden from her employer, Juliet’s mother.”O honey Nurse”She was a constant source of aid for Juliet and can be perceived as a mother figure for her. In the same manner that Romeo confided in the Friar, the element of trust was large. She also turned against Juliet when she needed her the most, as she agreed that Juliet should marry Paris, the man whom her parents wished for her to marry by telling Juliet that:”I think you are happy in this second match, For it excels your first”.The Nurse was well aware of the feud between the families, and that Romeo was a Montague. She could have made the affair known to the Capulets at any stage but didn’t.Of course the ongoing feud between the families was bound to end in tragedy as the recent fighting had proved. The Prince confirms this point by condemning them. He says:”See what a scourge is laid upon your hate”.The Friar could have just been a tool of fate, framed by the consequences of his actions. At the time that the play was written, the stars and fate played a big part in peoples lives. The sequences of events that lead up to the deaths of could be seen as coincidence or bad luck. Fate is mentioned throughout the play, in the wedding ceremony, the Friar says:’These violent delights have violent ends like fire and powder.”We are constantly reminded that Romeo and Juliet are going to die and this shows the ironic twist of fate pre-determined by the Friar here. Romeo and Juliet are”star-crossed”.Fate is against them. It appears that no matter what they do, the two lovers can not avoid this tragic end.In conclusion, the Friar is responsible for setting in motion the series of actions that eventually lead to the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. Firstly by agreeing to marry them, and then giving Juliet the potion.The Friar’s motives for these actions are genuine if misguided. He expresses his feelings of guilt and remorse when he realises that all his plans have gone awry. He asks Balthasar, Romeo’s servant to accompany him into the tomb but goes alone when he realises his responsibility, saying:”Stay then; I’ll go along. Fear comes upon me. O much I fear some ill unthrifty thing”.The Friar is party responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, as he should have thought about the possible consequences of his actions before going ahead. If anyone is to blame it should be the Capulet and Montague families, as Romeo and Juliet would have been able to marry openly if it was not for the feuding of their families.

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