In what ways are Friar Laurence's thoughts and feelings about himself represented in Act 2, Scene 3 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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There are several lines in Act 2, Scene 3 indicating that Friar Laurence views himself as a spiritual guide and morally superior to several citizens in Verona, just as a friar ought to see himself.

We especially see Friar Laurence's view of moral superiority in his speech concerning gathering herbs for both medicinal and poisonous reasons. For example, he points to a flower that both smells very sweet but is also very poisonous, capable of instantly killing a man. Friar then argues that even man has within his heart this same dichotomy of being both sweet and deadly. He then further argues that when a man is dominated by his worst character traits, rather than his best, his worst character traits soon eat him up, or kill him, as we see in his lines:

Two such opposed kings encamp them still
In men as well as herbs--grace and rude will;
And where the worser is predominant,
Full soon the canker death eats up that plant. (II.iii.27-30)

The phrase "two such opposed kings" refers literally to opposing character traits, just like the flower has opposing characteristics. He next defines "grace and rude will" as man's opposing character traits and then further states that when "rude will" is man's most dominant character trait, it destroys him. These lines actually very clearly relate to the dominant theme in Romeo and Juliet of rational thought vs. violent, passionate emotions. With these lines, Friar Laurence is establishing him as a moral judge over both Lords Capulet and Montague, arguing that "rude will" is their dominant quality. If Friar Laurence believes himself to be a moral judge, then he also believes himself to be a virtuous, spiritual leader who is morally superior to both the Capulets and Montagues.


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