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In Romeo and Juliet, what relationship does Friar Lawrence see between plants and...

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mike111 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 25, 2008 at 5:38 AM via web

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In Romeo and Juliet, what relationship does Friar Lawrence see between plants and people?

The question is somewhere in Act 2.

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sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 25, 2008 at 6:07 AM (Answer #1)

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The soliloquy you speak of is in Act II, scene iii. Friar Lawrence comments on the ability of plants to be both helpful and hurtful, healthy and poisonous. People are the same way, one moment benevolent (kind) and the next violent or angry or destructive. He also notes that, like with plants, there is variety in the kinds of people on Earth. Here is the passage from the play:

And from her womb children of divers kind
We sucking on her natural bosom find;
Many for many virtues excellent,
None but for some, and yet all different.
O, mickle is the powerful grace that lies
In plants, herbs, stones, and their true qualities:
For naught so vile that on the earth doth live
But to the earth some special good doth give;
Nor aught so good but, strain'd from that fair use,
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse:
Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied;
And vice sometimes by action dignified.
Within the infant rind of this small flower
Poison hath residence, and medicine power:
For this, being smelt, with that part cheers each part;
Being tasted, slays all senses with the heart.
Two such opposed kings encamp them still
In man as well as herbs,--grace and rude will;
And where the worser is predominant,
Full soon the canker death eats up that plant.

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blazn0azn | Student , Grade 9 | Honors

Posted February 27, 2008 at 8:35 AM (Answer #2)

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The friar's soliloquy reflects on the duality of human nature. The last three lines are especially significant, in that they state that men, as well as herbs, are both 'good' and 'evil'. Also, the last two lines imply that if evil takes root in the heart of man, then he or she will become engulfed in and infatuated by it.

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mickey2bailey | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted February 29, 2008 at 12:58 PM (Answer #3)

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In Act II, Scene 3, Friar Laurence describes a relationship between good and evil and man and herbs in his soliloquy.  The first reference is:  "The earth that's nature's mother is her tomb, What is her burying grave, that is her womb."  This says that even though we are placed in the earth when we die, it also brings life through the plants that it produces.

The next reference is, "O, mickle is the powerful grace that lies in plants, herbs, stones, and their true qualities; For naught so vile that on the earth doth live But to the earth some special good doth give."  The Friar says that there isn't anything from the earth that is only evil; it also brings good.

The third reference is:  "Within the infant rind of this flower Poison hath residence, and medicine power; For this, being smelt, with that part cheers each part; Being tasted, slays all senses with the heart.  The Friar says if you smell the plant it can improve your health, but eating the flower will cause uncertain death.

Friar Laurence says that if you smell the herb it can improve your health, but if you eat the plant it will cause uncertain death.  This goes to prove that there is good and evil in everyone and everything. It foreshadows the events to come.

Reference:  The Language and Literature Book by McDougal Littel

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