Romeo and Juliet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What are Friar Laurence's views on love in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet ?

Friar Laurence’s views on love in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet are consistent with the principles of his religious Catholic faith, specifically moderation and marriage. He believes that a divinely inspired love is capable of overcoming hatred. The Friar is a well-intentioned man who views love as a legitimate tool to reunite the feuding Montague and Capulet families, but his scheme actually becomes the catalyst in bringing about the tragic end to the star-crossed lovers.

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William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a romantic tragedy about two young lovers who are kept apart by their feuding families. Since the couple’s efforts to enjoy life together are thwarted, they take their own lives in order to be united forever in death. It is ironic that the theme of true spiritual love leads to the deaths of the impassioned protagonists in this tale.

Love is a major theme in this drama and Friar Laurence’s views on love and actions in furtherance of Romeo and Juliet’s amorous relationship play an important role in bringing the plot to a tragic conclusion. He is a kind and holy man and a devout Catholic. He is also the only religious character with an active role in the drama. As such, he operates as a spiritual advisor to the lovers. For example, when Romeo begs the Friar to quickly marry him to Juliet, he admonishes Romeo for treating love so superficially since he previously exclaimed undying devotion to Rosaline:

Holy Saint Francis, what a change is here!
Is Rosaline, whom thou didst love so dear,
So soon forsaken? young men's love then lies
Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.
Jesu Maria, what a deal of brine
Hath wash'd thy sallow cheeks for Rosaline!

Friar Laurence believes Romeo should “love moderately.” However, Romeo’s love is impassioned, pure, and spiritual. He pledges devotion to Juliet, which is consistent with the Friar’s vision of the proper idealistic amorous relationship. Thus, when the protagonist insists on arranging the speedy secret marriage to Juliet, the Friar agrees.

Friar Laurence’s views on love do not stop with Holy Matrimony. He agrees to secretly marry the couple in hopes of restoring peace between their feuding families, as well as to Verona. Although his advice is generally good, he conceives a plan for the wedding that actually brings about the fateful tragic ending. Stepping outside of the normal behavioral patterns of a Franciscan Friar, he devises a scheme that involves giving Juliet a sleeping potion to feign death so she can avoid marrying Paris pursuant to her family’s wishes. Juliet swallows the potion and Romeo thinks she is dead. He buys a vial of poison and takes his own life. When Juliet awakens from her stupor and sees that Romeo has died, she commits suicide using her lover’s knife.

Friar Laurence believes in the intense spiritual love between the protagonists but frowns upon the artificial love between Romeo and Rosaline. He favors the purity of Juliet’s love over the vulgar love expressed by the Nurse. He objects to Mercutio’s obscene sexual jokes. He is not a believer in the arranged marriage planned by Juliet’s family. Thus, it is clearly with good intentions that he tries to help the couple complete their love arrangement. While the Friar envisions Romeo and Juliet’s love to be part of God’s plan to rid Verona of violence and heal the wounds of hatred between the feuding families, it is the couple’s love that continues on after death that ultimately results in peace.

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We learn several things in the second act about Friar Laurence's perspective on love. In particular, we learn that Friar Laurence views youth as fickle and youth's love as insincere. We also learn that he thinks the heated, passionate love that Romeo and Juliet share is not genuine love and likely to die soon. Finally, we also learn that he believes that love can put an end to hate.

We see Friar Laurence express his view that youths are fickle as a result of insincere love when we see him reprimand Romeo for changing so suddenly from loving Rosaline to loving Juliet, as we see in the lines, "Young men's love then lies / Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes" (II.iii.68-69). In other words, Friar Laurence is accusing Romeo and all young men of equating love with physical attraction, which is not the strongest, most sincere form of love. When Romeo defends himself, declaring, "Thou chid'st me oft for loving Rosaline," we further see Friar Laurence accuse Romeo of insincere love when he says, "For doting, not for loving, pupil mine" (82-83). The term "doting" can be translated as "being infatuated with." Infatuation is an intense, foolhardy passion that is also very "short-lived" (The American Heritage Dictionary). Hence, in accusing Romeo of being infatuated with Rosaline, he is declaring his perspective that youths do not truly know what real love is and instead mistake love for foolish passion, which does not last long. Thus, Friar Laurence is declaring his perspective that youthful love is fickle and insincere.

We also see Friar Laurence refer to a second perspective on love that closely relates to his view concerning the fickleness and insincerity of youthful love. Not only does he think that Romeo's love for Rosaline was insincere, he also thinks that the love Romeo and Juliet share is equally insincere and likely to die soon. We see Friar Laurence express this perspective when, before conducting their marriage ceremony, he warns them that violent, heated passion is likely to end suddenly and violently, as we see in the lines:

These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume. (II.vi.9-11)

Hence, Friar Laurence is also expressing his perspective that love based purely on violent passion is insincere and likely to end suddenly.

Finally, Friar Laurence also relays his perspective that love can conquer hatred and that hatred is sinful and, therefore, everything must be done to put an end to hatred. We see Friar Laurence relay this perspective when he agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet that day even though he thinks it is unwise and that their love for each other is youthful and insincere, as we see in his lines:

In one respect I'll thy assistant be;
For this alliance may so happy prove
To turn your household's rancour to pure love. (II.iii.93-95)

In this passage "rancour" can be interpreted to refer to "bitterness," or hatred thereby showing us that the only reason why Friar Laurence has agreed to marry the couple is that he thinks it will put an end to the sinful family feud, which shows us his perspective that love can conquer hatred.

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