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Friar Lawrence in Romeo And Juliet. Essay


To what extent is Friar Laurence responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet?

The Friar is answerable for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, but only to some degree. Often, because of his involvement in the lives of the lovers, Friar Laurence can be seen as more responsible for their deaths than he actually is, although in the last scene the Friar is partially responsible for the death of Juliet. However his responsibility is mild compared to the accountability of other influences in the lovers lives, including friends, parents and the idea of fate or fortune. Even Romeo and Juliet themselves can be blamed to some extent for the tragedy.

Although it often appears that the Friar is responsible for events leading to the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, in reality it is usually other influences that are accountable. For instance, the Friars plan (giving Juliet the sleeping potion to evade the wedding to Paris, then spiriting her to Mantua until Romeo could return to Verona) was not flawed in itself. Unfortunately however, Balthazar, seeing Juliets funeral, hastened to tell Romeo that he saw her laid low in her kindreds vault, (5, 1, 20). It was this information that made him, and later Juliet, commit suicide. Again, while marrying Romeo and Juliet may seem like an irresponsible action, it did not contribute to the lovers deaths. Their first meeting, based on chance, and their separation, as a result of Romeos banishment, played a far greater role in the tragedy.

However, the Friar contributes to the death of Juliet by his behaviour at the tomb. Not only does he offer her no comfort at seeing her love dead, he also gives her no hope for the future but life among a sisterhood of holy nuns (5, 3,157) and then abandons her in the tomb because he does not want to be blamed for Romeo and Paris death by the Watch. This is both selfish and irresponsible, especially as Juliet has already threatened to kill herself once in the Friars presence. Although he later offers his life to the Prince let my old life / Be sacrificd, some hour before his time, / Unto the rigour of severest law. (5, 3, 267-269) he does not tell the whole truth to the Prince about what happened at the tomb. Even if he had, however, it would not have taken away his responsibility for the death of Juliet.

Friar Laurence is only partially responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet however several other factors must also be considered, particularly the role of fate and fortune. For instance, if the Capulets servant had not asked Romeo to read the guest list for the feast, Romeo would not have attended, and therefore would not have been seen by Tybalt, eventually resulting in his banishment. Moreover, he would not even have met Juliet, and therefore would not have had the chance to fall in love with her. Later, there is another twist of fate when the news of Juliets death reaches Romeo in Mantua but the news of the Friars scheme does not. This leads Romeo to the tomb, where the timing of Romeos death, Juliets waking, the Friars arrival and the Watchs appearance coincide in such a way that Romeo and Juliet both commit a lonely suicide.

Nevertheless, fortune would not have had its disastrous effect if Romeo and Juliet were not impulsive people. Romeos decision to kill Tybalt to avenge Mercutio is what initiates the sequence that brings about their deaths; if he had not done this, he would not have been banished, Juliets marriage would not have been moved to an earlier date, and therefore nobody would have killed themselves to follow their love into the afterlife. Moreover, both Romeo and Juliet willingly commit suicide, and are therefore ultimately responsible for their deaths.

Romeo and Juliet are not wholly responsible for their decisions to commit suicide, however, because in part they were driven to their choices by a lack of support from friends and family. Juliet did not appear to have any friends; she relied on the opinions of the Nurse and her parents, but all these people betray her when she cannot marry Paris. Her father is appalled, telling her to hang, young baggage, disobedient wretch (3,5,160), and her mother almost disowns her Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee. (3,5,203). The Nurse tries to comfort her, but can only tell her to betray Romeo and marry the count, for hes a lovely gentleman! Romeos a dishclout to him. (3,5,219), and there she retracts her previous thoughts on Romeo an honest gentleman, / And a courteous, and a kind, and a handsome, / And I warrant a virtuous man (2, 4, 55-57). Romeo tends to rely on his own decisions more, his friends inadvertently betray him too Mercutio is the one that goads Tybalt into a duel, eventuating in his banishment, and Balthazars choice not to check with the Friar before telling Romeo of Juliets death eventually moves Romeo to kill himself.

We can therefore infer that responsibility for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet lies not only with the Friar but also with nearly every main character in the play. The idea of chance plays a greater role in the tragedy than any single character, and the lovers characters compel them to make choices that also contribute significantly to the event of their deaths. This does not excuse the Friars actions, but it does put both his behaviour and the play into perspective.

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