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The Friar tells Juliet to agree to marry Paris. He tells her to make sure she is alone the next night and to drink a vial of a potion. The potion will make Juliet feel cold, pale, and fall into a deep sleep, and her pulse will stop. She will lose all color in her complexion and appear dead:"The roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade To paly ashes, thy eyes' windows fall Like death when he shuts up the day of life."
Juliet will remain in this deathlike state for forty-two hours, after this time elapses she will wake up. She will appear dead for a period so that the Capulet family will bury her and she will be absolved of her responsibility to marry Paris. The Friar will notify Romeo of the plan, so that when Juliet wakes up, Romeo will be there to wisk her away and they will be able to run away to Mantua together. The Friar warns that Juliet cannot change her mind or become scared, which will ruin the plan.
To read this section in the text, go to Act 4, Scene 1, lines ~93-123.
The Friar's solution is to give Juliet a potion that willl make her look dead. Then, she will be sent to the Capulet's burial vault and Romeo will be sent news to meet there. When Juliet wakes up, she and Romeo can run away to live together. The only problem is what if Romeo sees she is dead but does not know the plan? He could commit suicide.
WHAT A HUGE QUESTION you've just asked. WOW! Congratulations on studying R&J...a great story about adults who just keep getting it wrong. So: the potient. In Shakespeare's time (no iphones, ipads or toilets) there were lots of stories coming from explorers (Queen Elizabeth loved explorers and their stories) about people in far away places who would take potients (drugs) and become 'near dead' or zombies (it's not a new idea!) Why would you do this? Good question. People are fascinated with what is 'after life' and if they could experience 'near death' they might be able to wake up and tell their pals what it was all about 'after life.' Back to R&J. That's where Shakespeare (WS) got the idea. The friar is going to send Juliet (J) into a zombie state. What could go wrong? What could go right?? First,of course, Romeo doesn't know what is going on. The Friar's letter explaining everything to him could get lost, drop out of the messenger's pocket, the horse eats it...a million reasons why Romeo might not get the letter and know that J is supposed to be in a dead-like sleep that will fool everybody(parents, Paris) and let her get out of marrying Paris (who is an ok guy, just not Romeo) so she can wake up then run away with Romeo (R) (an aside:remember Juliet (J) is 13 years old. Would you let your 13 year old sister run away with a 17 year old guy who got so angry he killed somebody?Just something for you to think about) What else might go wrong...the friar might get it wrong and kill J for real. Not good. What else could go wrong? J would actually run off with R - never seeing her parents again, never being able to comfort them in their soaring grief that their only child had 'died.' Remember, J loves her parents very much, she has lead a very protected childhood (she is still in it) she is a very devoted daughter. How exactly is J going to cope without her parents for long? The Friar's plan could go wrong because it is wrong...WS has given us a character that might seem like a Mr Nice Guy on the surface, but let's just take a closer look at him. He is a religious leader in the community. Why is he recommending deceipt and secrecy? Does he have alternatives for helping R&J and their feuding families other than drugs and deceipt? Think he could arrange for the adults to meet over some tea and treats and hash things out? Do you think he could act as a parenting coach helping them communicate with their kids a little more effectively? What about counselling Romeo with "OK you love her a lot-that's great. If you love her like you say you do, then you will check your testerone at the door and start the hard work of making friends with her family." Or, he might say, "I'll help you.Be patient." The friar's plan can't go right becaue it isn't right and that is it's biggest flaw. It is built on panic, impatience, secrecy and deceipt. It will not work because of that. The friar is manipulating R&J and they can't see him as being manipulative because they are young and blinded by lust and hormones (recognize that feeling?) They are naive and ASSUME the friar is good because he is a friar. The friar is human and is making a huge mistake that is going to cost the lives of two kids and destroy two families. Shakespeare is warning us that honesty is sometimes hard and takes longer and sometimes doesn't feel great. But deceipt and secrecy won't work for long. How did WS figure this all out? Genius!
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