Extended Character Analysis
Friar Laurence is a good-hearted Franciscan friar who marries Romeo and Juliet in hopes that their union will end the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues. He is one of the most peaceful and wise characters, whose well-intentioned efforts ironically lead to the two lovers’ deaths.
Friar Laurence first appears on stage in act II, scene III, picking herbs and plants for his medicines and placing them in a basket. He greets Romeo warm-heartedly and gently prods him when he thinks that Romeo has been out all night with Rosaline. Romeo confides in Friar Laurence that he attended the ball and has fallen in love with his enemy’s daughter. Friar Laurence is surprised by Romeo’s change of heart, remarking, “Holy Saint Francis, what a change is here! / Is Rosaline, whom thou didst love so dear, / So soon forsaken?” (act II, scene III). Even so, he offers Romeo advice, counseling him to be prudent. He muses, warning Romeo to go into his love for Juliet “wisely and slow...” for “they stumble that run fast.”
Throughout the play, Romeo and Juliet come to Friar Laurence for guidance. In contrast to most members of the Capulet and Montague houses, Friar Laurence is kind and good-natured. Juliet turns to him when she believes that her nurse has betrayed her, and Romeo hides in Friar Laurence's home before he is banished. Friar Laurence devises the death deception and arranges for Juliet to take the sleeping potion to get out of the wedding to Paris.
However, in a twist of situational irony, Friar Laurence's altruism leads to the play’s tragedy. When Romeo does not receive word that Juliet has taken the sleeping potion, he mistakenly believes that she is dead. Heartbroken, Romeo poisons himself. Juliet awakens shortly thereafter and stabs herself when she finds Romeo dead beside her. After the two young lovers die, Prince Escalus absolves the Friar for his involvement in their deaths, recognizing his compassion and acknowledging that the family feud was the real cause for Romeo and Juliet’s deaths.