What are some character traits of Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet?

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sylviabe's profile pic

sylviabe | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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In the midst of the Montagues' and Capulets’ feud, Friar Lawrence becomes the stand-in parental guide to both Romeo and Juliet. In this endeavor, he often tries to be the voice of reason and provide each with sound advice. Initially, his advice is generally sound. He warns in his soliloquy in Act 2, scene 3, lines 1-30, that plants have a dual nature to heal and hurt, a relevant metaphor to many actions undertaken throughout the play. Later, he criticizes Romeo’s fickleness in having previously claimed himself madly in love with Rosaline only to abandon those affections for Juliet (II, 3, lines 65-80). He continually advises Romeo to be patient, as “they stumble that run fast.” (II, 3, line 94).

However, his advice, especially later during the play, becomes marred by his lack of full understanding of the ensuing situation. For example, he marries Romeo and Juliet, despite his repeated proclamations that there could be dire consequences, as “these violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die…” (II, 6, lines 9-10). Following Romeo’s banishment, Friar Lawrence again tells a very distraught Romeo to be patient; “Here from Verona art thou banished. Be patient, for the world is broad and wide.” (III, 3, 16). He tries to give Romeo a “tough love” speech following Romeo’s attempt to stab himself, in lines 108-158, and tells him to recognize the blessing that is his lightened sentence of banishment rather than death, and advises Romeo to maturely petition the prince for clemency, which seems to largely fall onto Romeo’s anguished, deaf ears.  Romeo’s earlier response to the Friar’s advice in line 64 is an accurate summary of one of the Friar’s biggest flaws, “thou canst not speak of that thou dost not feel.” Friar Lawrence, being both much older and a monk, is not always equipped to appropriately assist in Romeo and Juliet’s situation. His actions following this point even take on an unintentionally destructive nature, as he advises Juliet to fake her own death rather than confess to her marriage with Romeo to prevent her unwanted marriage to Paris. He then bungles the plan by his letter to Romeo falling to arrive. He once again fails to act quickly enough to Juliet’s tomb to prevent Romeo’s death. When Juliet finally awakens, Friar Lawrence rather insensitively advises her to come with him to a nunnery (V, 3, lines 156-157). He then flees rather than staying with her, and in his absence, Juliet commits suicide.

In his final presentation of Romeo and Juliet’s story to the prince and their respective families, Friar Lawrence expresses his failures in their ultimate deaths, but as he displayed in the second half of the play, this admission is well-intentioned but irrelevant.

 

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mrerick's profile pic

mrerick | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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The Friar is one of the most trustworthy characters you'll find in the play, second only to Balthasar, most likely.  He is certainly Romeo's confidant, and eventually becomes Juliet's when she can no longer count on the nurse to help her relationship with Romeo.  The Friar is well respected in the town by everyone, it seems.  After the events of the play, he is very open and honest about what has occurred and is granted absolution from the Prince.  Because it was the Friar who arranged the meetings between R and J, there's a good chance that he could have smoothed over any anger had his plans between the two lovers worked out.

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