Why does Friar Lawrence not trust in God?The Friar is supposed to be a religious figure. Comment on how he strays from his religion.

5 Answers | Add Yours

ask996's profile pic

ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

Friar Laurence is a religious figure through our interpretation based upon our modern understandings. During Shakespeare’s time, “religious” figures were quite often appointed to their positions, and many were attracted by the power and wealth that sometimes went along with the position. Friar Laurence’s willingness to go along with the plan could quite possibly been a means of ensuring his position within the church. Imagine the power the son of a wealthy family might have wielded.

gbeatty's profile pic

gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Friar Laurence is the only religious figure in the play, so one would expect him to be concerned with right and wrong, especially since he's dealing with two young people. From the outset, the Friar makes one wrong decision after another. First, he marries the couple behind their parents' backs, and then he arranges for Romeo to go to Juliet the night of their honeymoon. Then he sneaks Romeo out of town, but his worst act, I feel, is the potion that he makes for Juliet. Why would a Catholic friar have such knowledge of such potions, and why would he be willing to risk the life of a young teenage girl? The friar brings about the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, and as a religious man that Romeo obviously trusts, he should have been punished for his decisions.

Good question. I think we need to consider this question in the light of Shakespeare's larger context. To be specific, whatever Shakespeare's personal faith was, he wrote many works while a markedly non-Catholic queen (Elizabeth I) was on the throne. The Friar was a figure of authority, but an alternative authority to a king's (or Prince's), and in many times and locations, more of a social and communal figure than a holy one. (Priests did handle religious duties, but not always out of an internal calling.) The Friar's actions make some sense from this point of view, as, perhaps, does his risk of Juliet's life as a kind of veiled chiding of authority that reaches too far.

 

Greg

jamie-wheeler's profile pic

Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Bdmadick brings up a point that has puzzled me for some time.  Why did the Friar go unpunished?  He sneaks out like the mole that he is after receiving something of a pass by the Prince and the families.

In Act 5, 3:

PRINCE

This letter doth make good the friar's words,
Their course of love, the tidings of her death:
And here he writes that he did buy a poison
Of a poor 'pothecary, and therewithal
Came to this vault to die, and lie with Juliet.
Where be these enemies? Capulet! Montague!
See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love.
And I for winking at your discords too
Have lost a brace of kinsmen: all are punish'd.

CAPULET

O brother Montague, give me thy hand:
This is my daughter's jointure, for no more
Can I demand.

 

bmadnick's profile pic

bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Friar Laurence is the only religious figure in the play, so one would expect him to be concerned with right and wrong, especially since he's dealing with two young people. From the outset, the Friar makes one wrong decision after another. First, he marries the couple behind their parents' backs, and then he arranges for Romeo to go to Juliet the night of their honeymoon. Then he sneaks Romeo out of town, but his worst act, I feel, is the potion that he makes for Juliet. Why would a Catholic friar have such knowledge of such potions, and why would he be willing to risk the life of a young teenage girl? The friar brings about the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, and as a religious man that Romeo obviously trusts, he should have been punished for his decisions.

jamie-wheeler's profile pic

Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

One of the most problematic aspects of this play is the Friar's fliratiation with the occult and his seeming lack of concern for everything being in "the hand of the Lord."  The vial itself is suspicious.  Given the stories circulating during the Renaissance in chapbooks, tracts, and other conduct media about the evils of Catholicism in general and priests in particular, this mysterious, unexplained substance feels sinister. 

Renaissance audiences familiar with church teachings would have been very troubled by just how little the friar seems to value the worth of both Romeo’s and Juliet’s souls.  The regard for an individual’s soul was a major tenet in the Reformation’s doctrine. Friar Laurence undeniably aids them in sin.  Whether one agreed with arranged marriage or not, the friar is the one who agrees to clandestinely marry the pair and dishonor the father, which consequently results in Juliet being put in danger of being a bigamist.   He resorts to what amounts to magic to “help” them further, but worst of all, when everything comes crashing down, it is his own neck he seeks to save, not Juliet’s.  Though he makes something of an attempt to rescue her too, it is himself he is most concerned about. “Come, I’ll dispose of thee / Among a sisterhood of holy nuns,” he implores.  “Stay not to question, for the Watch is coming.  / Come, go, good Juliet.  I dare no longer stay”  (5.3.156-60). 

We’ve answered 318,991 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question