A Franciscan monk who lives a simple life, Friar Lawrence serves as an andviser to Romeo and Juliet. As a monk, Friar Lawrence spends much time in meditations; therefore, his soliloquies and speeches often have a philosophical tone to them.
In his first appearance in the play, Friar Lawrence's soliloquy of Act II, Scene 3 expounds upon the delicate balance between virtue, which comes of reasonable behavior, and vice, behavior dharacteristic of intense passion:
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 sometime's by action dignified. (3.2.17-22)
When Romeo arrives at the friar's cell, he is greatly changed from the morose lover of Rosalind; now, he is impassioned of Juliet. Romeo tells the priest of his love, and Friar Lawrence agrees to be Romeo's "assistant" by performing the marriage of the young couple. In doing so, he cautions Romeo, "Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast" (3.2.97).
Later, in Scene 6, Romeo and Friar Lawrence await the arrival of Juliet so that the marriage can take place. Again, the priest cautions Romeo in his exuberant passion to control his feelings,
These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume. The sweetest honey
Is loathsome in his own deliciousness
And in the taste confounds the appetite.
Therefore love moderately: long love doth so;
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.(2.6.9-15)
The dramatic irony of Friar Lawrence's words is that he himself fails to heed the wisdom of his own words as in the final acts, he acts rather impetuously, passionately, as he aids Juliet and then hastily abandons her at the Capulet catacomb.