What is one thing that we can claim from looking at Friar Laurence's speech in Act II, Scene 3 of Romeo and Juliet? Does the speech provide foreshadowing or something significant about the Friar?

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Friar Laurence's speech at the beginning of Act II, Scene 3 reveals two important things about the Friar and also helps establish one of Shakespeare's themes in the play. First, the Friar's speech indicates that he understands the properties of many of the weeds and flowers that he is gathering in his garden before Romeo shows up. This ability foreshadows later events when Friar Laurence mixes a potion which makes Juliet appear to be dead. The audience knows from this scene that it is quite possible for the Friar to concoct such a chemical. He understands that plants contain both medicine and poison, and that one simple flower, while smelling sweet, may also cause a fatal overdose:

Within the infant rind of this weak flower
Poison hath residence and medicine power:
For this, being smelt, with that part cheers each
part;
Being tasted, stays all senses with the heart.
Friar Laurence also understands that the behavior of men is similar to the properties of plants. Men can be healing, but they can also be harmful:
Two such opposèd kings encamp them still
In man as well as herbs—grace and rude will;
And where the worser is predominant,
Full soon the canker death eats up that plant.
While men have the ability to be good, some men are so afflicted by evil that it is their primary trait. This may be particularly true of Tybalt, who must have some redeeming qualities (his family seems to love him), yet is angry and violent, which eventually causes his demise. This theme of good vs. evil runs throughout the play. It is primarily shown in the relationship between Romeo and Juliet, who share a deep affection (their love is a "good") amidst the chaos and violence of the feud between their families (an "evil"). Lord Capulet appears to love his daughter, yet cannot help but berate and threaten her when she does not yield to his wishes.
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Romeo and Juliet

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