The Role of Friar John in Romeo and Juliet

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Words: 797 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jan 4, 2019

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Words: 797|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jan 4, 2019

The Role of Friar John in “Romeo and Juliet”
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In Shakespeare's timeless tragedy "Romeo and Juliet," Friar Laurence plays a significant role in the fateful demise of the titular characters. Initially portrayed as a wise and compassionate priest, Friar Laurence becomes a trusted confidant to Romeo and Juliet. He marries them in secret, devises a plan to keep them together, and offers advice throughout their tumultuous journey. However, Friar Laurence's impulsive decisions, shortsighted plans, and fear of sin contribute to the tragic deaths of the young lovers.

Several other characters also play crucial roles in the unfolding tragedy. Friar John, the messenger who fails to deliver Friar Laurence's crucial letter to Romeo, inadvertently leads to the misunderstanding that ultimately leads to Romeo and Juliet's deaths. Tybalt's uncontrollable rage against Romeo results in his own demise and that of Mercutio, leading to Romeo's banishment. The Nurse, a key figure in facilitating the secret marriage, becomes an unwitting accomplice in the tragic events. In the end, Friar Laurence, once a beloved character, is revealed as a flawed and selfish individual whose misguided attempts to help the young lovers contribute significantly to their untimely demise.

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In Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet”, Friar Laurence has a major role. As a wise and generous priest Friar Laurence was a man of belief allowing Romeo and Juliet to trust him completely, turning to him for advice, and solutions. He was there throughout Romeo’s and Juliet’s lives; he married them, came up with a plan to keep them together, and was a friend throughout their tragedies. However, Friar Laurence’s rash decisions in marrying Romeo and Juliet, his shortsighted plan for rescuing Juliet from an unwanted marriage to Paris, and his fear of committing sin all contributed to the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.

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Even characters that have short roles or seem insignificant have important roles – one example is Friar John, the messenger who was to take the letter detailing Friar Lawrence’s plot to Romeo, but who was held back by the threat of plague. His inability to get to Mantua meant that Romeo believed that Juliet was dead, and subsequently took his own life. Another example is Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, whose rage against Romeo resulted in the deaths of himself and Mercutio. In an attempt to avenge his best friends death, Romeo killed Tybalt and found himself banished to Mantua. The Nurse also had an extremely important role in the tragedy. She acted as a go-between for the two lovers and helped the marriage between them take place. However, many could agree Friar Laurence a man of belief and good is held responsible for the death’s of the star-crossed lovers.

It could be said that Friar Lawrence is one of the main characters with whom a large share of the blame lies with. He was a holy man, and with his position came the huge responsibility of serving as a priest and confidant for the whole community. This power was abused when he helped them marry and plotted a “death” for Juliet and so breaking the trust between himself and Romeo’s and Juliet’s parents. In the era that Shakespeare’s play took place, marriages were arranged by parents, while the Friar should not have necessarily revealed the relationship, he should not have put his position in jeopardy by marrying the two. The audience would from there forth see him as manipulative and calculating. The evidence to indicate that Friar Lawrence is guilty in the deaths of Romeo and Juliet would be when he confesses in Act 5, scene 3. “I will be brief because I’m not going to live long enough to tell a boring story. Romeo, who lies there dead, was the husband of that Juliet. And she, who lies there dead, was that Romeo’s faithful wife. I married them; their secret wedding day was the day Tybalt died. His untimely death caused the bridegroom to be banished from the city. Juliet was sad because Romeo was gone, not because of Tybalt’s death. To cure her sadness, you arranged a marriage for her with Count Paris. Then she came to me, and, looking wild, she asked me to devise a plan to get her out of this second marriage. She threatened to kill herself in my cell if I didn’t help her. So I gave her a sleeping potion that I had mixed with my special skills. It worked as planned. She seemed to everyone to be dead”. In his monologue, he confesses that he married the two secretly. He then states that he was the one that gave Juliet the sleeping potion, and says that if he did not, she would have killed herself right there. He confesses to giving a letter to Friar John explaining the plan to Romeo, and that Friar John wasn’t able to deliver the letter so that Romeo never knew what was in the written message.

The once loved character, Friar Laurence is now viewed as a one minded, selfish individual after he proves once again that his plans weren’t thoroughly thought through. When rushing to the tomb with yet another genius plan, Friar Laurence stands at the entry to see a deceased Romeo and a grieving Juliet. Laurence’s selfish ways have ultimately ended Romeos life and instead of following through with his plan to retrieve Juliet from the tomb Juliet orders him to leave them alone. Already aware of Juliet’s mentality that she “longs to die” (Act 4 Scene 1) along with the realisation that guards are coming the Friar again doesn’t fail to prove his selfish state of mind. Laurence fearfully retreats from the tomb knowing the looming punishment of his actions which leads to the tragic death of Juliet.

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If he had not confessed, the deaths of Romeo and Juliet would go on as a mystery, as Friar Laurence fled from the scene as Juliet went to deep sleep before the arrival of the watchmen. Balthasar, Romeo’s servant is found in the churchyard and might have been held responsible if it weren’t for the Friar’s confession. The nurse would have known that the Friar allowed Romeo and Juliet to get married, but she doesn’t know of the plot that the Friar planned to give Juliet the sleeping potion and alert Romeo, who is banished, so they can sneak away together and leave Verona as a couple. Ever since she mentioned that Juliet should marry Paris as her parents would want Juliet stopped confiding in her. Without the Friar’s confession, there wouldn’t be any evidence to prove his guilt. The only witnesses are dead. The letter he penned to Romeo was returned to him by Friar John. If he hadn’t had an attack of conscience, he would certainly have gone to his grave without anyone knowing the depth of his involvement.

Hook Examples for “Romeo and Juliet” Essay

  • A Hidden Character: While Friar Laurence takes center stage in Romeo and Juliet’s tragic tale, Friar John remains largely overlooked. Yet, within the shadows, he plays a pivotal role that deserves our attention.
  • An Intriguing Quirk: Ever wonder why Friar John failed to deliver the crucial letter to Romeo? This seemingly small detail unfolds into a critical aspect of the play’s narrative, inviting us to explore its significance.
  • A Missed Connection: What if Friar John had successfully reached Romeo with the message? Could this simple twist of fate have altered the course of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy? Let’s dive into the “what-ifs” of Friar John’s role.
  • A Symbolic Interpretation: In literature, even minor characters can carry profound symbolism. Join me as I unravel the layers of meaning behind Friar John’s character and his role in the themes of communication and fate.
  • An Unanswered Question: Shakespeare often leaves his audience with unanswered questions. In the case of Friar John, we are left to ponder whether his actions were truly a mere twist of fate or a reflection of deeper themes within the play.

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The introduction provides adequate background for the topic, and a strong thesis statement is present. The body has been divided according to the main points. More cited evidence could have been used to support these points. The essay lacks a defined concluding paragraph. Few errors in grammar and punctuation were identified.

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The Role of Friar John in “Romeo and Juliet”. (2022, April 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 14, 2024, from
“The Role of Friar John in “Romeo and Juliet”.” GradesFixer, 03 Apr. 2022,
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