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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.
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.
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.
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