In Romeo and Juliet, what evidence is there that Friar Laurence truly cares for Romeo and/or Juliet? Provide strong quotes as proof.
It is clear from the time we first meet friar Laurence and witness his interaction with Romeo, that he has great affection for him. Their conversation provides more than enough evidence of their amity. When Romeo visits him the friar responds in the following manner:
What early tongue so sweet saluteth me?
The fact that the friar sees Romeo's early morning greeting as 'sweet' suggests his fondness for the lad. He affirms his liking for him by stating that if he is greeted at such an early hour, it suggests that the one who greets is 'distempered' i.e. upset, and that that is a cause for concern and makes him worry. He displays knowledge of Romeo's habits and moods by stating that he is probably correct in saying that Romeo had not slept. This kind of in-depth knowledge is only possible if there is a close relationship.
We further learn about the closeness Romeo shares with the friar when he divulges the fact that he has fallen for Juliet and has dismissed the erstwhile object of his affections, Rosaline. Their conversation makes it clear that Romeo had been confiding in the priest about his most private feelings. The friar displays much knowledge of Romeo's history in this regard, which further affirms the depth of their friendship. The friar comes across as both mentor and confidante to Romeo.
Friar Laurence further signifies his care for Romeo after he had been informed about his infatuation with a member of his family's enemy by stating the following:
...But come, young waverer, come, go with me,
In one respect I'll thy assistant be;
For this alliance may so happy prove,
To turn your households' rancour to pure love.
The friar sees Romeo and Juliet's affection for each other as an opportunity to resolve the conflict between their families. He informs Romeo that he will assist him in his relationship with Juliet in order to achieve this goal.
The friar accepts Romeo's request to wed the two star-crossed lovers and in his conversation with the two later, he expresses a clear joy for their decision and shows his liking for Juliet.
Ah, Juliet, if the measure of thy joy
Be heap'd like mine and that thy skill be more
To blazon it, then sweeten with thy breath
This neighbour air, and let rich music's tongue
Unfold the imagined happiness that both
Receive in either by this dear encounter.
The words he uses in this instance all have a pleasant and affirming tone. He wishes that Juliet's joy is as great as his and that her consent will add to their joy. He does, however, call it an 'imagined' happiness that the two lovers will receive from their decision to marry, which implicitly suggests that there is no real guarantee that the lovers will have true happiness. On a prior occasion, he had also warned Romeo about the brevity of impulsive love and told him that it should be 'moderate' which would ensure its greater endurance.
More evidence of the friar's care for the two lovers is exhibited later when he informs Romeo of the prince's judgement against him - that he has been banished at the risk of execution, for killing Tybalt. Romeo is overwhelmingly distraught and believes it is a punishment worse that death and wishes to commit suicide, but the friar stays him and says that he will formulate a plan. In the presence of Juliet's nurse he then requests that Romeo pay Juliet a brief visit and rush to Mantua before morning.
Friar Laurence later concocts a plan in which Juliet can avoid marrying the county Paris and where she can safely join Romeo in Mantua, without arousing any suspicion. The plan seems good and Juliet agrees to follow his instructions ...
Although the friar is aware of the risks involved in the two lovers' liaison, he is positive about the affair and probably naively believes that things will turn out well. As already mentioned, he wholly believes that the relationship will resolve an age-old feud between the two families and an ensure the two errant lovers' happiness. We discover later, however, that he was much too optimistic because his intervention ironically culminates in a sad and tragic denouement.