What is Juliet's plan to avoid marrying Paris? 

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Initially, Juliet is planning to kill herself if Friar Lawrence doesn't have a solution to her problem. After hearing her father's decree that she marry Count Paris and the Nurse's denouncement of Romeo at the end of Act III she has no choice but to turn to the Friar for advice. After an awkward conversation with Paris outside Lawrence's "cell" at the beginning of Act IV, she reveals to the Friar that she's carrying a knife and will use it if he can't advise her:

If in thy wisdom thou canst give no help,
Do thou but call my resolution wise,
And with this knife I’ll help it presently.
The Friar has obviously been thinking about her problem after being asked by Paris to perform the marriage. He would be equally guilty if he were to marry her to another man, and so his reputation is just as much at stake. Therefore, he comes up with a wild plan for Juliet to fake her death by taking a potion which will render her lifeless for almost two days. Shakespeare has foreshadowed Lawrence's ability to create such a chemical mixture earlier in the play when he is picking herbs and flowers outside the church in Act II, Scene 3. He further tells Juliet that he will send a message to Romeo to retrieve her after she has been laid away in the Capulet tomb. If not for the plague threat which delays Friar John, the plan might have worked. Unfortunately, Romeo receives news that Juliet is dead before Lawrence's message reaches him.