Romeo and Juliet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In act 2, scene 3 of Romeo and Juliet, what does Friar Laurence's speech mean?

In Romeo and Juliet, Friar Laurence's speech in act 2, scene 3 is a discussion of the duality of life, which is the idea that the potential for both good and evil exists in all things.

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As the friar collects flowers and herbs, he stops to reflect on the way both can heal and harm. Thus, he reasons, herbs and mankind are much the same—they both have capacity for good and evil.

This is a theme that has strong undercurrents throughout the play. Although Romeo tries to avoid murdering Tybalt, his attempts toward kindness unintentionally cause the death of his friend Mercutio. Although Romeo and Juliet find true love together, their love stands in opposition to their parents' wishes, putting them in grave danger. Lord Capulet claims to want the best for his daughter, yet when she attempts to deny his plans for marriage, he tells her that she will be dead to him unless she follows his wishes. In each of these instances, mankind proves the relationship between good and evil in Friar Laurence's speech:

Nor aught so good but, strained from that fair use
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse.
Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied, (act 2, scene 3, lines 19–21)

Friar Laurence...

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