In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, how does Friar Laurence's activity in the beginning of Act 2, Scene 3 tie into the imagery that comes before in the play?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In the beginning of Act 2, Scene 3, Friar Laurence is out at day break gathering herbs from his garden. He refers to the "grey-eyed" morning smiling on the "frowning night" (1). These two contrasting images of dawn and night are part of a recurring motif frequently contrasting morning, or daytime, with night. Nighttime is considered the time of day for the activity of lovers, while morning is the opposite concept. In Act 1, Scene 1, we learn from Lord Montague that Romeo has been seen many mornings on the west side of Verona crying under a sycamore tree. Romeo then returns to his room, "locks fair daylight out / And makes himself an artificial night" (135-136). We learn from this line with the two contrasting images of "daylight" and "artificial night" that Romeo spends the whole night, probably on Rosaline's part of town, pining away and then sleeps during the day. Romeo's passionate, heartbroken lust for Rosaline leads him stay out all night thinking of her, which is the time of day he would normally be with her had she accepted him.

Another reference to the image of nighttime that alludes to it being the romantic time of day comes from Lord Capulet. He invites Paris to court Juliet at his feast that night, under "Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light," again showing us the contrast between the images of dark and light, and therefore night and light with the purpose of making an allusion to romance. He also declares that the romance of nighttime comforts "lusty young men" because it is their opportunity to obtain their desires.

The fact that Friar Laurence is collecting "precious-juiced flowers" as well as "baleful weeds" serves as symbolic imagery that portrays another theme in the play. The word "baleful" can be translated to mean "poisonous," or "evil," or even "wretched" (Collins English Dictionary). The term "poison," or "evil," can refer to the hatred and bloodletting that the families' feud is causing, while "wretched" can refer to the upcoming tragic occurences. Since flowers are the sexually reproductive organs of a plant, the image "precious-juiced flowers" can symbolically refer to romantic love. Friar Laurence's reference to the two images in the same line shows us again the contrast between love and hate that is a predominate theme in the play.