What are some character traits of Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the midst of the Montagues' and Capulets’ feud, Friar Lawrence becomes the stand-in parental guide to both Romeo and Juliet. In this endeavor, he often tries to be the voice of reason and provide each with sound advice. Initially, his advice is generally sound. He warns in his soliloquy in Act 2, scene 3, lines 1-30, that plants have a dual nature to heal and hurt, a relevant metaphor to many actions undertaken throughout the play. Later, he criticizes Romeo’s fickleness in having previously claimed himself madly in love with Rosaline only to abandon those affections for Juliet (II, 3, lines 65-80). He continually advises Romeo to be patient, as “they stumble that run fast.” (II, 3, line 94).

However, his advice, especially later during the play, becomes marred by his lack of full understanding of the ensuing situation. For example, he marries Romeo and Juliet, despite his repeated proclamations that there could be dire consequences, as “these violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die…” (II, 6, lines 9-10). Following Romeo’s banishment, Friar Lawrence again tells a very distraught Romeo to be patient; “Here from Verona art thou banished. Be patient, for the world is broad and wide.” (III, 3, 16). He tries to give Romeo a “tough love” speech following Romeo’s attempt to stab himself, in lines 108-158, and tells him to recognize the blessing that is his lightened sentence of banishment rather than death, and advises Romeo to maturely petition the prince for clemency, which seems to largely fall onto Romeo’s anguished, deaf ears.  Romeo’s earlier response to the Friar’s advice in line 64 is an accurate summary of one of the Friar’s biggest flaws, “thou canst not speak of that thou dost not feel.” Friar Lawrence, being both much older and a monk, is not always equipped to appropriately assist in Romeo and Juliet’s situation. His actions following this point even take on an unintentionally destructive nature, as he advises Juliet to fake her own death rather than confess to her marriage with Romeo to prevent her unwanted marriage to Paris. He then bungles the plan by his letter to Romeo falling to arrive. He once again fails to act quickly enough to Juliet’s tomb to prevent Romeo’s death. When Juliet finally awakens, Friar Lawrence rather insensitively advises her to come with him to a nunnery (V, 3, lines 156-157). He then flees rather than staying with her, and in his absence, Juliet commits suicide.

In his final presentation of Romeo and Juliet’s story to the prince and their respective families, Friar Lawrence expresses his failures in their ultimate deaths, but as he displayed in the second half of the play, this admission is well-intentioned but irrelevant.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Friar is one of the most trustworthy characters you'll find in the play, second only to Balthasar, most likely.  He is certainly Romeo's confidant, and eventually becomes Juliet's when she can no longer count on the nurse to help her relationship with Romeo.  The Friar is well respected in the town by everyone, it seems.  After the events of the play, he is very open and honest about what has occurred and is granted absolution from the Prince.  Because it was the Friar who arranged the meetings between R and J, there's a good chance that he could have smoothed over any anger had his plans between the two lovers worked out.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are some characteristics of Juliet and Friar Lawrence?  

I will start with Juliet, and I'll start with the easy and obvious characteristics.  First, Juliet is a girl.  A young girl at that.  Her father tells Paris that Juliet is not ready to be married yet, because she is too young.  

My child is yet a stranger in the world;
She hath not seen the change of fourteen years,

Juliet is also a Capulet; they are the sworn enemies of the Montagues, which is what Romeo is.  Juliet, despite her youth is wise and strong beyond her years.  I think this because she doesn't automatically dismiss her mother's advice about Paris.  I work with 13 year old students.  I know how they talk about their moms and mom's rules.  Juliet tells her mom that she will look at Paris with an open mind.  She doesn't simply dismiss her mom's advice for the sake of dismissing her. 

I'll look to like, if looking liking move:
But no more deep will I endart mine eye
Than your consent gives strength to make it fly.

Regarding her strength, Juliet stands up to her father and mother about her desire to marry Romeo.  That's not an easy thing for a young girl to do, especially when dad is screaming and insulting you.  Juliet does stand up to her father's onslaught though and stands firm in her devotion to Romeo.  

Friar Lawrence is a much more interesting character I think.  He's quite mysterious.  For example, why does a holy man religious figure have such intimate knowledge of potions and herbs?  He is presented as a friar, but I feel he more closely resembles a wizard or medicine man.  He is a caring individual, and the evidence is in how he treats Romeo and Juliet.  He can clearly see their love for each other, but he still warns Romeo of the potential problems that the marriage is going to cause.  

Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.

Yet despite his concerns, Friar Lawrence still agrees to unite Romeo and Juliet in marriage.  That sounds wonderful and romantic, until you think about his main stated reason for doing so.  

In one respect I'll thy assistant be;
For this alliance may so happy prove,
To turn your households' rancour to pure love.

Friar Lawrence believes that Romeo and Juliet's marriage will have the power to end the feud between the Capulets and Montagues.  That's devious and scheming, because it might work, but it might not either.  Of course Friar Lawrence isn't taking any of the risks either.  His plot is completely safe for him, because Romeo and Juliet will take any of the trouble that comes.  

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Shakespeare's tragedy "Romeo and Juliet," what is the character of Friar Lawrence?

Friar Lawrence is a "priest" who dabbles in herbal remedies and alchemy.

Shakespeare is using Friar Lawrence to point out the inconsistencies of the Roman Catholic religious orders since the English are "protestant" ie. Anglican or Church of England.

Friar Lawrence attempts to help the two young lovers out using potion, but all of his efforts are thwarted by "fate".  Friar Lawrence is a coward and runs away from the tomb when he sees Romeo and Paris in there dead.  He leaves Juliet to awaken to her dead husband and fiance`.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Shakespeare's tragedy "Romeo and Juliet," what is the character of Friar Lawrence?

If anybody were full of good intentions in this story, it is indeed the friar.  However, he doesn't forsee the eventual consequences of his plans - such as the possiblilty of the timing going awry - which leads to the eventual suicide of Romeo, then Juliet. He is not held to blame for their deaths, though, and the Prince who had warned the feuding families in the first place puts the guilt of their children's deaths upon them instead.

Note that for the "holy man" he is called, Friar Lawrence turns to schemes involving both stealth and deception to help Juliet "escape" a loveless marriage with Paris. He also plays around with strange concotions, much as a witch doctor or medicine man. His compassion supercedes his wisdom, as his scheme to have Juliet feign an untimely death foils up in the end.

See the eNote reference below for a further character study of the friar.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on