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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Friar Laurence is a priest (a Friar is another term for a Catholic holy man) and not labeled as a doctor in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It is likely, however, that, like other religious men of his day, he dabbled in chemistry and the creation of herbal mixtures like the one he gives Juliet. Science was often a natural pastime of religious men who were prohibited from marrying and raising a family. Some of the greatest scientists in history, including Albertus Magnus (described the qualities of arsenic), Gregor Mendel (genetics), and Roger Bacon (scientific method) were monks or priests. The fact that Friar Laurence is somewhat of a scientist is revealed in Act II, Scene 3 as he is in his garden gathering weeds and flowers. He describes how herbs can be used as both medicine and poison. In the following lines he tells how one such flower, if smelled, provides pleasure, but if tasted could cause death:

Within the infant rind of this weak flower
Poison hath residence and medicine power:
For this, being smelt, with that part cheers each
part;
Being tasted, stays all senses with the heart.
It is perfectly plausible, then, that Friar Laurence should be able to create a potion which will render Juliet in a death like state for almost two days. Indeed, this mixture does work although circumstances, which are out of his control, work against the Friar's plan.
Read the study guide:
Romeo and Juliet

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