Is Friar Laurence to be blamed for the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet? Friar Lawrence is the one who makes plans for Romeo and Juliet, but at the end both die. Is it his fault?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There's no such thing as fate or blame in tragedy, at least not by the characters therein.

Shakespeare is to be blamed for the tragedy, not anyone else.  He controls fate only.  He knew he as writing a tragedy, that all would die, and so he planned it that way.  Tragedy is not realistic; it is engineered by an author for disaster.  No single character, therefore, can be blamed, not even Romeo and Juliet or--in his more focused ones--Othello, Macbeth, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, or King Lear.

Tragedy is only tragedy in hindsight.  No one recognizes it at the time.  If any number of events might have gone the other way (Mercutio's death, Tybalt's death, Friar John's letter), then the tragedy would have been avoided.  But then, that would have been either a very boring or an absurd play.  Audiences are attracted to wildness, to when things go horribly wrong (tragedy/myth) or right (comedy/romance).

Shakespeare wrote a comic version to Romeo and Juliet called Much Ado About Nothing in which tragedy was avoided by better communication.  The staged death of the bride was known by several, instead of one.  The bad guy was caught, and all was blamed on him.  Not one, but two couples married.  That's more realistic.  But, no on asks those questions: "Who is blamed for Hero's marriage?"

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a common question instructors ask their students to consider when studying Romeo and Juliet. I agree with the above editors that Shakespeare and Fate both deserve some blame if not all.

However, if you are to take a look at the conditions of their relationship and the job the Friar possessed from the beginning, I think it is just to offer him a share in the responsibility.

The friar was a holy man, and took a position of mentorship for Romeo. This calls into question the role of a good mentor requires. Should a mentor challenge the decisions their student makes? Should a mentor consider what parents would want to know and conference with them accordingly?

Had the friar mentioned something to Romeo or Juliet's dad, the outcome of this story would have been completely different. As a mentor myself, I make decisions every day about what things to report to parents and which ones parents could best do without. I would like to think I would have mentioned something if one of my students married secretly a person they'd only known for a few hours. But then, Shakespeare wouldn't have his tragedy of love, and therefore potentially less popular of a play.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is a question in the question and answer group which asks, "Who is the real villain" in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?

Placed in the context of modern society, (which is often what we like to do) blame would certainly be assigned to Friar Laurence as (a) a priest and (b) an adult.  First of all, he marries Juliet and Romeo when the rules of the Church have not been followed:  Banns were to be posted and a waiting period of six months was to follow before couples could marry. 

Then, as an adult, he shirks responsibility by not informing the parents that Juliet is married; instead, he plots against the parents' wedding wishes for her and Paris by giving her a secret potion, hoping that they will be so grieved by her "death" that when she comes back to life, they will concede defeat in their feud with the Montagues.  Finally, when Juliet returns to consciousness, he flees when he hears the soldiers.  This, indeed, is an unconscionable act; in fact, it is one that costs Juliet her life.

Fate may be the force in this play, but Friar Laurence meddles too much with it and causes "the star-crossed lovers" their lives.

kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It would make for a more interesting essay than most written on the play if you decided to go ahead and blame him for the tragic outcome of the play.  There are certainly other issues that come into play, but perhaps with better planning and more careful instruction, the Friar could have helped create a more fool-proof plan.

Any discussion of his culpability would likely lead at least to a discussion as well of the role of fate, particularly as it is so widely discussed within the action of the play and considered to be the main driver of actions and outcomes.  The argument that Friar Lawrence is at fault would have to be backed up by evidence from within the play that individual responsibility sill exists along with free will on the part of the actors within the tragedy.

I agree with the previous answer in that it would be difficult to prove beyond some doubt, but it would be a fun and interesting way to approach various questions about the text and its implications.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with previous editors who state that we need to consider Friar Lawrence's responsibility alongside the role of fate or destiny in the play. I must admit, part of me feels quite sorry for Friar Lawrence. He, from the first time when Romeo tells him about his relationship with Juliet, sees this as an opportunity to bring about an end to the cruel animosity between the Montagues and the Capulets. However, hubris seems to get the better of him as he designs a stratagem to get the two families together which seems to be over-elaborate and prone to disaster. One wonders if he is over-reaching himself and trying to gain recognition for healing the breach between these two families for the wrong reason. As other editors have noted, he does act beyond the remit of his position, marrying the lovers, but at the same time, he cannot be held responsible for the tragic series of mistakes or accidents that lead to the final tragedy. So, Friar Lawrence is definitely found partly guilty!

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the play "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare, the author shows the audience how Fate influences the tragedy of the two young sweethearts - and how everyone in the story fits in to this fateful outcome and plays their part in it. Everyone has a hand in what happens, so it's probably not fair and too simple to say that it is all Friar Laurence's fault and it was it his plan alone that caused their tragic end. Coincidences also (fateful coincidences perhaps, such as those where a letter is late or misdelivered, or the unfortunate timing of another suitor) play a part. Romeo and Juliet already had their minds firmly made up when they went to see Friar Laurence - and then the marriage deed was done and couldn't be undone. The friar offered a hasty temporary 'solution' to the problem which went badly wrong because of timing and other circumstances.

copelmat eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't believe we can blame Friar Lawrence solely for the tragedy. He certainly has a hand in it, but no more so than the families themselves because of their rancor and feud.

What I do believe we can squarely blame on Friar Lawrence is the death of Juliet. When she awakens and find Romeo dead beside her, Friar Lawrence flees in fear of the guard (the police). If he had remained, or if he had forced Juliet to flee with him, she likely would not have committed suicide.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the play, Romeo and Juliet Friar Laurence was more of an unwitting accomplice. I would say the greater blame lay on the families of the Montague’s and Capulet’s as they are the ones who made Romeo’s and Juliet’s relationship taboo--thus broadening its appeal to both teenagers.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

That’s an interesting point. Up to then, he could have been held rather blameless. You’re undoubtedly right. Juliet was easily persuaded, and he could have removed her from the situation-returning her to the care of her family.

jess1999 | Student

I think that it isn't only Friar Laurence that is to be blamed. Basically almost everyone was to be blamed in the tragedy. For example, if the two families didn't have such a huge conflict between them, then Romeo and Juliet wouldn't have a hard time admitting their love publicly. The friar acting as a mentor to them could've told the parents, instead of forming a plan that was basically telling Juliet to run away from her problems. The thing though is the timing of the play. This whole entire play only took place less than a week which shows that these characters couldn't really have time to think through on what they're actually doing.

user1564715 | Student

i don't think that the Friar is the only one to be blamed, he is indeed partially responsible for the tragedy. 

He did marry romeo and Juliet without the knowledge of their parents and he is the one who gave Juliet the poison but i think the main cause of this tragedy is because of the feuding families.If wasn't for the feuding then they wouldn't of had to get married in secret, Romeo wouldn't of killed Tybalt (because he would not have crashed the Capulets party), Romeo would not have been exiled, Juliet wouln't have faked her own death, Romeo wouldn't have had the poison and killed himself and Juliet wouldn't of stabbed herself... 

parama9000 | Student

The root cause of the tragedy is because of the feud between the families. Thus, you could reason that the feud was to blame for this tragedy. However, Friar Laurence should be partially blamed for coming up with such an elaborate scheme that had high potential for something to go wrong.

phylliskoh123 | Student

Partly was his fault. He gave the special potion to Juliet and wrote a letter to Romeo. However, Friar Lawrence did not have the urgency to urge Friar John to send the letter to Romeo as fast as possible. Friar John wanted another Friar to accompany him to Mantua , this shows that he does not have the urgency to send the letter to Romeo.

Another thing, I think Friar Lawrence should tell Lord Capulet about Romeo and Juliet's marriage. This is also partly his fault. Lord Capulet would want a rich and good man to marry Juliet. Referring to Act 1 Scene 5, when tybalt wanted to attack Romeo when Romeo 'invaded' the Capulet's house and go to the feast , Lord Capulet stopped him as he knew Romeo is a nice young man. Lady Montague loves her son , she wuld agree to the marriage if they were to tell her..

In conclusion, it was partly Friar Lawrence's fault. Faults also lies on the Nurse, Romeo and Juliet

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Romeo and Juliet

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