In Romeo and Juliet, what is the overall function of Friar Laurence and how does his presence underscore the play's overall meaning?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Romeo and Juliet" Friar Laurence acts as the mediator and voice of moderation in opposition to the impetuosity of the young characters.  He cautions Romeo against his hasty wish to marry Juliet. Yet, having reflected In Act II, Scene iii, that "vice sometimes's by action dignified," Friar Laurence agrees to assist Romeo declaring, "...this alliance may so happy prove,/To turn your households' rancor to pure love." 

Later, when Romeo slays Paris, Friar Laurence counsels Romeo against his despair and arranges for him to go to Juliet then leave for Mantua; Frair Laurence devises a plan to send word to Romeo when it is safe for him to return.

When Juliet also comes to the priest in her despair over the desires of her father that she marry Paris, Friar Laurence devises a plan whereby Juliet will seem dead. He will send for Romeo after the family and the prince believe her dead.  Romeo will be there for her when she awakens from the sleeping potion.

Of course Fate enters and the tragedy of Romeo's failure to receive the message from the priest that Juliet is not really dead occurs.