In Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 3, most of the Friar's speech features what literary or stage device?

Expert Answers
jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act 2, Scene 3 of Romeo and Juliet, the Friar's speech features an extended metaphor. As he carries a basket filled with herbs, he takes them out and examines them. While speaking about the herbs, he compares them to children who are born from nature's "womb" (line 11) and who suck on "her natural bosom" (line 12).

As the extended metaphor goes on, the Friar compares the nature of the weeds to the different personalities of children (and of people in general). He says that the weeds and plants all have different natures and goes on to say that they all possess something of value:

"Oh, mickle is the powerful grace that lies / In herbs, plants, stones, and their true qualities. / For naught so vile that on the earth doth live / But to the earth some special good doth give" (lines 15-19).

In other words, plants and weeds, like people, have "mickle" or a large amount of grace. Even the worst, most poisonous plants, the Friar says, also provide some good. Similarly, good plants can also be turned to bad use; as the Friar says,

"Nor aught so good but strain'd from that fair use / Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse: / Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied" (lines 19-21).

At this moment, Romeo enters, and the audience is supposed to understand that the Friar is referring specifically to Romeo, as the hatred of his family towards the Capulets has the potential to turn his goodness into evil.

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a number of literary devices in the Friar's speech in 2.3. 

Shakespeare begins by using a anthropomorphism. Anthropomorphism gives human qualities most frequently to inanimate objects or animals but also to natural phenomena. Here, we see the dawn and night given human characteristics: "The grey-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night." Now, obviously the dawn cannot really smile nor can the night frown. 

The next device is a simile. Here, the darkness reacts to the infringing light, and stumbles about "like a drunkard reels." Similes compare to things using "like" or "as" as a connection.

Immediately following the simile is the use of allusion. Allusion reference things outside the story, either real OR fictional. Here, the friar speaks about "Titan's fiery wheels." Titan was the Greek sun god who drove a chariot of fire.

Also included in this passage is an oxymoron. An oxymoron compares, side-by-side, two seemingly contradictory things. Here, we see the earth being identified as both womb and grave. 

What is her burying grave that is her womb, 
 And from her womb children of divers kind 

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, womb to tomb. The earth literally gives and disposes of life. 


mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The stage device that is used in Act II, Scene 3, is soliloquy. This device is extremely useful to the dramatist as it affords him the opportunity to convey a character's most intimate thoughts and feelings directly to the audience. In this scene, Friar Laurence is introduced through this private speech in which he reveals his thorough knowledge of herbs, a knowledge that foreshadows his plan of giving Juliet a sleeping potion later in Act IV.

Soliloquy is also a device in which the dramatist can exhibit his imaginative and poetic talents. For instance, this soliloquy is written by Shakespeare in rhyming couplets. Also, the motif of light/dark that dominates the play is clearly in play with the imagery of the first six lines: 

The grey-eyed morn similes on the frowning night,
Check'ring the eastern clouds with streaks of light,
And flecked darkness like a drunkard reels
From forth day's path and Titan's fiery wheels [the sun]:

Further, soliloquy provides a great opportunity for the dramatist to expound upon his own philosophies while expressing themes and observations on other characters.

Read the study guide:
Romeo and Juliet

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question