What are some quotes that prove that Friar Lawrence is the most to blame for Romeo and Juliet's death?

Some quotes that prove that Friar Lawrence is the most to blame for Romeo and Juliet's deaths are "But come, young waverer, come, go with me / In one respect I’ll thy assistant be" and "And if thou darest, I’ll give thee remedy."

Expert Answers

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

Consider this exchange in act 2, scene 3:

ROMEO: I pray thee, chide not. Her I love now

Doth grace for grace and love for love allow.

The other did not so.

FRIAR LAWRENCE: Oh, she knew well

Thy love did read by rote, that could not spell.

But come, young waverer, come, go with me,

In one respect I’ll thy assistant be,

For this alliance may so happy prove

To turn your households’ rancor to pure love

Friar Lawrence, the trusted adult in this conversation, has just spent quite a few lines questioning Romeo's motives in marrying Juliet when the good friar himself has noted Romeo's pining and tears over Rosaline in recent days. Does it make sense, then, to leap to marriage immediately after meeting Juliet? No, and Friar Lawrence could have given Romeo counsel here. He could have encouraged Romeo to slow down and not rush to emotional action. Even more compelling is the friar's reasoning for agreeing to this marriage: To turn the Capulet and Montague feud into love. He is, therefore, treating Romeo and Juliet like pawns.

The lines that showcase the guilt of Friar Lawrence in the deaths of Romeo and Juliet are found in act 4, scene 1:

FRIAR LAWRENCE: Hold, daughter. I do spy a kind of hope,

Which craves as desperate an execution

As that is desperate which we would prevent.

If, rather than to marry County Paris,

Thou hast the strength of will to slay thyself,

Then is it likely thou wilt undertake

A thing like death to chide away this shame,

That copest with death himself to ’scape from it.

An if thou darest, I’ll give thee remedy

It's important to remember that Juliet is not yet 14 in this play. When Juliet comes to him for help in avoiding a marriage with Paris, Friar Lawrence offers a poison to this child that is so deadly that she must "copest with death himself to 'scape from it." It is daring and risky and not a responsible option for an adult to provide to a young person as a solution to her problems.

In act 5, scene 2, Friar Lawrence talks with the friar whom he has tasked with delivering the letter of crucial importance to Romeo:

FRIAR LAWRENCE: Unhappy fortune! By my brotherhood,

The letter was not nice but full of charge,

Of dear import, and the neglecting it

May do much danger.

In this letter to Romeo, Friar Lawrence explains that Juliet is faking her own death in order to join Romeo in his exile. He entrusts this critical information to Friar John, not even telling him that the letter could be of life-or-death importance. Friar John takes the task casually and brushes off his inability to deliver it. Friar Lawrence clearly should have made the importance of the letter a bit more clear or should have delivered the letter himself, thus ensuring Romeo received the information.

Throughout the play, there is certainly compelling evidence that points to Friar Lawrence's guilt in the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.

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

On the morning after Romeo and Juliet meet, Romeo visits Friar Lawrence's cell bright and early, asking if the holy man will consent to marry the young couple.  Lawrence is surprised to see that Romeo has gotten over his "love" of Rosaline so quickly and moved on to someone else.  He says, "O, she knew well / Thy love did read by rote, that could not spell" (2.3.94-95).  In other words, he credits Rosaline for her refusal of Romeo because, clearly, Romeo did not truly love her.  However, immediately following this, Lawrence says to Romeo,

But come, young waverer, come, go with me.
In one respect I'll thy assistant be,
For this alliance may so happy prove
To turn your households' rancor to pure love.  (2.3.96-99)

Believing Romeo to be "wavering" in his love, first in his love for Rosaline and now for Juliet, Lawrence still agrees to marry him and Juliet.  He seems to hope that a marriage between the two young people will bring their families together and prevent any further violence.  This is a nice idea.  However, he is agreeing to marry two people, one of whom at least is incredibly young (Juliet is just thirteen), without their parents' permission, knowing that their families loathe one another, and with full knowledge that the groom is not the most steadfast in his love.  Had the friar never consented to marry the couple, then it seems likely that they would both remain living.

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

The quotes that Friar Lawrence states when introducing and implementing his plan are, by far, the most damning.

When Friar Lawrence introduces the potential plan in Act 4, Scene 1, it is clear that he is responsible for dreaming up the idea:

If, rather than to marry County Paris,                                                              Thou hast the strength of will to slay thyself,                                                         Then is it likely thou wilt undertake                                                                    A thing like death to chide away this shame,                                                 That copest with death himself to ’scape from it.                                                And if thou darest, I’ll give thee remedy. (lines 73-78)

In the above, it is clear that Juliet is only coming to seek solace and a solution.  That the friar suggests such a dangerous plan is entirely his doing, as is shown in the quote above.  It is he who suggests a plan that will render Juliet in a stage "like death."

Likewise, when the plan starts to go awry after Friar John cannot tell Romeo about Juliet's true condition, Friar Lawrence likewise admits guilt, stating that Juliet will be upset to hear that the plan has gone poorly:

"She will beshrew me much that Romeo / Hath had no notice of these accidents."  (Act 2, Scene 5, lines 26-27).  

Here, the friar realizes that he is to blame for any mishaps, and acknowledges that Juliet will be angry over the outcome.  Later in the same act, he states that Juliet is shut up in a tomb alone because of his mistakes (line 30).

Thus, in the creation of, and implementation of, the plan, Friar Lawrence admits to mistakes that ultimately bring about Romeo and Juliet's demise.

 

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

The clearest piece of evidence to indicate that Friar Laurence is guilty in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is the Friar's own confession in Act 5, scene 3. In his monologue, he confesses that he married the two secretly. He further confesses to giving Juliet the sleeping potion, and says that if he did not, she would have killed herself right there. He confesses to giving a letter to Friar John explaining the plan to Romeo, and that Friar John returned the letter to him undelivered, so that Romeo never knew the contents of the message.

Had he not confessed, the deaths of Romeo and Juliet may have remained a mystery, as Friar Laurence fled from the catacombs before the arrival of the watchmen. Balthasar is found in the churchyard, and might have been implicated if it weren't for the Friar's subsequent confession.

The nurse would have known that the Friar married Romeo and Juliet, but she doesn't know of the plot that the Friar concocts to give Juliet the sleeping potion and alert Romeo, who is banished, so they can sneak away together. Juliet stops confiding in the nurse when the nurse suggests Juliet would be better off marrying Paris.

Without the Friar's confession, there wouldn't be any evidence to prove his guilt. The only witnesses are dead. The letter he penned to Romeo was returned to him by Friar John. If he hadn't had an attack of conscience, he would certainly have gone to his grave without anyone knowing the depth of his involvement.  

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on