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In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, how does Friar Laurence attempt to change Romeo's...

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vampireacadem... | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted April 26, 2012 at 5:12 PM via web

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In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, how does Friar Laurence attempt to change Romeo's mindset? How does the friar's logic and resoning contribute to the tragedy?

FRIAR LAURENCE
"Hold thy desperate hand:
Art thou a man? thy form cries out thou art:
Thy tears are womanish; thy wild acts denote
The unreasonable fury of a beast:
Unseemly woman in a seeming man!
Or ill-beseeming beast in seeming both!
Thou hast amazed me: by my holy order,
I thought thy disposition better temper'd.
Hast thou slain Tybalt? wilt thou slay thyself?
And slay thy lady too that lives in thee,
By doing damned hate upon thyself?
Why rail'st thou on thy birth, the heaven, and earth?
Since birth, and heaven, and earth, all three do meet
In thee at once; which thou at once wouldst lose.
Fie, fie, thou shamest thy shape, thy love, thy wit;
Which, like a usurer, abound'st in all,
And usest none in that true use indeed
Which should bedeck thy shape, thy love, thy wit:
Thy noble shape is but a form of wax,
Digressing from the valour of a man;
Thy dear love sworn but hollow perjury,
Killing that love which thou hast vow'd to cherish;
Thy wit, that ornament to shape and love,
Misshapen in the conduct of them both,
Like powder in a skitless soldier's flask,
Is set afire by thine own ignorance,
And thou dismember'd with thine own defence.
What, rouse thee, man! thy Juliet is alive,
For whose dear sake thou wast but lately dead;
There art thou happy: Tybalt would kill thee,
But thou slew'st Tybalt; there art thou happy too:
The law that threaten'd death becomes thy friend
And turns it to exile; there art thou happy:  " ... till he stops speaking.

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 27, 2012 at 1:37 AM (Answer #1)

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In this passage Friar Laurence convinces Romeo not to committ suicide for being banished from Juliet. He argues that in wanting to kill himself and in reacting to his punishment as he is doing he is emasculating himself. Friar Laurence argues that he believed Romeo had a better, more rational mind, when he says, "I thought thy disposition better temper'd" (121). Not only that, he argues that all of his crying and bemoaning his fate because he is temporarily separated from Juliet is:

Womanish; thy wild acts denote
The unreasonable fury of a beast:
Unseemly woman in a seeming man! (116-118)

Friar Laurence's arguments certainly do help Romeo to realize that being punished through banishement is better than being sentenced to death. He eventually realizes that his situation is temporary, that Friar Laurence will help him find a way to be with Juliet again through helping him to "reconcile" with the Capulet family and to beg the prince's "pardon" (157-158). However, his relief is only temporary. When he learns later that Juliet has died he reverts back to his "desperate" measures and kills himself with poison, proving that his rational mind truly was much weaker than Friar Laurence believed it to be. Friar Laurence would condemn even Juliet's death as a reason for suicide because suicide is reckognized as a grave sin. Hence, even for this suicidal desire, Friar Laurence would call Romeo "womanish."

Friar Laurence's reasoning that Romeo is acting and thinking without principle and without rational thought reflects one of the play's greater themes, thus contributing to the understanding of the tragedy. All throughout the play many characters act on impassioned, impetuous emotions without stopping to be calm, cool, and rational. They act, as Friar Laurence says, with the "unreasonable fury of a beast" (117). Hence, Friar Laurence's counceling speech to Romeo serves to condone impassioned, irrational, empetuous behavior.

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