Friar the Felon: Essay on Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is among the most decorated and widely recognized plays of all time. The famous tragic ending has sparked many arguments of which character would be most at fault for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare’s purpose for writing the play was to communicate the not everything goes perfectly as planned and that sometimes, stories do not have a happy ending. Friar Lawrence is the most responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet because he secretly married Romeo and Juliet without telling anyone and made the horrible plan to give the already unstable Juliet a sleeping potion to fake her death.
The first reason that Friar Lawrence is responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet is that he married them without telling anyone. Before marrying Romeo and Juliet, Friar is speaking to Romeo where he admits that Romeo falls in love too easily and that he does not really love any of the women that he has encountered so far in his life. Friar, knowing this, asked Romeo, “Is Rosaline, that thou didst love so dear, /So soon forsaken? /Young men’s love then lies /Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes” (Shakespeare 2.3.66-69). Friar is telling Romeo that he only liked Rosaline for her appearance and did not really love her.
After admitting this, Friar agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet the very next day, which not only contradicts his own previous statement, but disobeys his own Catholic rules which state that in order to be married in the church, you have to be engaged for at least six months. Douglas Dupler agrees with this statement when he wrote, “Friar Lawrence acknowledges this change when remarks to Romeo that his feelings about Rosaline were for ‘doting, not feeling’” (Dupler 295). Friar Lawrence’s settlement to marry Romeo and Juliet was not only irrational and foolish, but his choice to not tell anyone caused a multitude of problems. Juliet’s parents, not aware that their daughter was already married, arranged for Juliet to be married to her cousin, Paris. Friar’s solution to the arranged marriage is the reason that the play ends the way that it did.
Another reason Friar Lawrence is responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet is his horrible plan in response to Juliet and Paris’ arranged marriage. The arranged marriage presented Friar Lawrence yet another opportunity to reveal that he had already facilitated the marriage of Juliet and Romeo, but instead he devised an awful plan for Juliet to fake her own death. When relaying his plan to Juliet, Friar stated, “Hold, then. / Go home, be merry, give consent to marry Paris. /Wednesday is tomorrow. Tomorrow night look that thou lie alone:/Take thou this vial, being then in bed, and this distilled liquor drink thou off; when presently through all thy veins shall run a cold and drowsy humor; for no pulse shall keep his native progress, but surcease; no warmth, no breath, shall testify thou livest” (Shakespeare 4.1.89-98). Friar’s plan consisted of Juliet drinking a vial and pretending to be dead, therefore cancelling the wedding and giving the Friar time to get both her and Romeo out of Verona.
Juliet was pressured to follow Friar’s plan because of the feud. The critical essay states, “It must be noted that the feud is the reason that Romeo and Juliet’s relationship is a ‘forbidden love.’ It should also be noted that the play begins with a fight scene between servants of the two families and ends with a peace agreement between Lords Montague and Capulet” (Kerschen 3). Following Friar’s plan is what caused Romeo to kill himself and then his later actions allowed Juliet to do the same. However, not everyone agrees that Friar Lawrence is most at fault for Romeo and Juliet’s deaths.
Some say that the Capulet parents are at fault for Juliet’s death because they arranged for her to be married to Paris without her consent. However, they would not have done that if Friar had told them in the first place that he already married Romeo and Juliet. After learning of Romeo’s new love, Friar responded, “Marry, me children, early next thursday morn the gallant young and noble gentleman, the county Paris, at Saint Peter’s church, shall happily make thee there a joyful bride” (Shakespeare 3.3.112-115).
The Capulets would not have arranged for another marriage if they had known that Juliet was already married because remarrying was against the law. Friar Lawrence told 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' rancour to pure love/” (Shakespeare 3.2.91-95). Therefore, the Capulets were partly at fault, but not as much at fault as Friar Lawrence. After marrying them to unite the families, Friar decided to not tell the Capulets or the Montagues, thus causing the Capulets to unknowingly arrange a second marriage for Juliet.
Friar Lawrence is the most responsible person for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet because he secretly married Romeo and Juliet and made the horrible plan to give the already unstable Juliet the sleeping potion. If Friar had only told people that Romeo and Juliet were married, then all of the problems in the books following their marriage would have been solved. Furthermore, Friar’s answer to Romeo being banished, was possibly the worst response to the situation. Through poor choices and bad judgement calls, Friar Lawrence is at fault for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare provides a great reading experience that forces the reader to really think about the story at the end.
Drama for Students. Ed. Anne Marie Hacht. Vol. 21. Detroit: Gale, 2005. From Literature
Lois Kerschen, Critical Essay on Romeo and Juliet, in Drama for Students, Thomson Gale, 2005.
Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet. Georgia Collections, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.