Who seems to be the most extraordinary character in Act 2 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and what is so extraordinary about him/her?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Act 2 is the act in which we first meet Friar Laurence. He is most definitely portrayed as an extraordinary friar. One thing extraordinary about him is that we learn in his very first speech that he is out at dawn gathering both healing herbs and poisons, as we see in the lines, "I must up-fill this osier cage of ours / With baleful weeds and precious-juiced flowers" (II.iii.7-8). The words "baleful weeds" can be translated as "malign," "harmful," or poisonous weeds, while "precious-juiced flowers" refers to flowers having "valuable," or healthful juices (Random House Dictionary). A friar out gathering healing herbs was actually not that unusual. In this time period, priests and friars also acted as doctors and had knowledge of medicinal herbs. However, what is unusual is the fact that he was out gathering poisons as well. While a friar should know what is poisonous to stay away from it, it's very unusual for a friar to be out gathering both poisons and herbs. What does he plan to do with the poisons? In addition, it's especially unusual for a friar to know how to create potions like the one he later gives Juliet.

Friar Laurence further proves to be an extraordinary character in Act 2, when he so readily agrees to marry the couple in secret. While marrying in secret certainly was neither illegal nor unholy, it certainly may not have been the wisest decision. Under the Catholic Church at this time period, a woman could marry without parental consent at the age of 12, while a man could legally marry without parental consent at the age of 14 ("Catholic Encyclopedia: Civil Marriage"). Therefore, there was nothing inherently wrong with Friar Laurence's agreement to marry them. However, he had just told Romeo in this scene that he is far too young to know what real love is; therefore, it seems a little extraordinary for him to next agree to marry them so suddenly. While Friar Laurence has good intentions for marrying them, it later proves not to be the best idea, making Friar Laurence a very unusual character full of surprising decisions.

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Romeo and Juliet

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