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What is Friar Laurence doing when he first appears in Act 2, Scene 3 of Shakespeare's...

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andreclavelli | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 21, 2013 at 11:50 PM via web

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What is Friar Laurence doing when he first appears in Act 2, Scene 3 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and what does it reveal about him?

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

Posted April 23, 2013 at 11:17 PM (Answer #1)

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When we first meet Friar Laurence, he is out at dawn gathering herbs into a willow basket, as we see in the lines, "I must up-fill this osier cage of ours / With baleful weeds and precious-juiced flowers" (II.iii.7-8). In these lines, an "osier" is a type of willow tree and the word "cage" can be interpreted as "basket" (eNotes). But what's most particularly interesting about these lines and what Friar Laurence is doing is that he is collecting both "baleful weeds," meaning poisonous weeds, and "precious-juiced flowers," meaning "medicinal" flowers (eNotes). In other words, Friar Laurence is out at dawn collecting both healing herbs and poisonous herbs.

It was not unusual for a monk to be out collecting herbs for medicine. In those days, it was common for monks to know about herbal healing, although the practice both increased and faltered as time progressed. Books have been published of herbal remedies known in the 16th Century and even earlier. However, what is unusual is the fact that Friar Laurence was also out collecting poisons as well. It is certainly very unusual for a monk to know how to create a potion that will make a person appear to be dead for 42 hours, as we see later on in his lines:

... this distilled liquor drink thou off;
...
Each part, depriv'd of supple government,
Shall, stiff and stark and cold, appear like death;
And in this borrowed likeness of shrunk death
Thou shalt continue two-and-forty hours. (IV.i.95, 103-06)

What this says about Friar Laurence is that there is far more to him than one would suspect. His willingness to break from typical herbal traditions held by monks shows us that he is not a typical monk. He is very complex and even has a bit of a deceptive side to his character. It's this deceptive part of his character that is willing to break with traditions and makes him do things that are non-traditional and deceptive, such as marry a young couple in secret and fake a death.

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andreclavelli | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 24, 2013 at 6:53 PM (Answer #2)

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When we first meet Friar Laurence, he is out at dawn gathering herbs into a willow basket, as we see in the lines, "I must up-fill this osier cage of ours / With baleful weeds and precious-juiced flowers" (II.iii.7-8). In these lines, an "osier" is a type of willow tree and the word "cage" can be interpreted as "basket" (eNotes). But what's most particularly interesting about these lines and what Friar Laurence is doing is that he is collecting both "baleful weeds," meaning poisonous weeds, and "precious-juiced flowers," meaning "medicinal" flowers (eNotes). In other words, Friar Laurence is out at dawn collecting both healing herbs and poisonous herbs.

It was not unusual for a monk to be out collecting herbs for medicine. In those days, it was common for monks to know about herbal healing, although the practice both increased and faltered as time progressed. Books have been published of herbal remedies known in the 16th Century and even earlier. However, what is unusual is the fact that Friar Laurence was also out collecting poisons as well. It is certainly very unusual for a monk to know how to create a potion that will make a person appear to be dead for 42 hours, as we see later on in his lines:

... this distilled liquor drink thou off;
...
Each part, depriv'd of supple government,
Shall, stiff and stark and cold, appear like death;
And in this borrowed likeness of shrunk death
Thou shalt continue two-and-forty hours. (IV.i.95, 103-06)

What this says about Friar Laurence is that there is far more to him than one would suspect. His willingness to break from typical herbal traditions held by monks shows us that he is not a typical monk. He is very complex and even has a bit of a deceptive side to his character. It's this deceptive part of his character that is willing to break with traditions and makes him do things that are non-traditional and deceptive, such as marry a young couple in secret and fake a death.

thanks so much.

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