The Failure of Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet Tragedy

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Romeo and Juliet weren’t supposed to die, but here’s why they did.

Let’s take a few steps back. The play “Romeo and Juliet”, set in Verona, Italy, is a story written by someone who didn’t have a very lucky love life, being the fact that he was forced to leave someone that he truly “loved” because he got a woman prior to that, pregnant. Further back, you find a similar story to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet named Romeus and Juliet, written by one Arthur Brooke. In the book written by Arthur Brooke, according to a 1971 thesis written by Betty Rae Slamans of Oklahoma University, Arthur was very focused on morality as Shakespeare wasn’t and complains about Romeo and Juliet being lustful, even though he craves the same thing that Romeo and Juliet have. Already, Romeo and Juliet are set up for failure.

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This is what leads us to our next point. The friar. Friar Lawrence is one of the few adults in the story of Romeo and Juliet and isn’t all that present in the story, but has the greatest impact on the characters. He oversees their plans and helps them meet in secret, while also still trying to keep up his priestly appearance by trying to get Romeo and Juliet to see how flawed their love is. Friar Lawrence, as the most influential character in the book, had a very important role to play, but also from Betty Rae Slamans, Arthur had a prejudice against Roman Catholics which, just as luck would have it, Friar Lawrence is, and Roman-Catholicism is the primary religion of Italians. Arthur most likely thinks that Roman-Catholicism is some unorthodox religion because he also refers to the Friars as the “naturally fit instruments of unchastity.” Already, we can see that Arthur will make Friar Lawrence a fountain of misguidance. This is why Friar is responsible for Romeo and Juliet’s death (through no fault of his own). This play most likely spoke out to Shakespeare, because as you would also have it: Shakespeare is a racist and sexist.

Juliet was supposed to marry another man named Paris but instead ends up marrying Romeo. The Friar knows this, yet he does absolutely nothing to try to convince her to do what her parents want her to do. He even goes as far as to put her under a very strong sleeping potion so that she doesn’t have to marry him. In this sense, not only is the Friar defying the parents wish, he stopped a marriage by taking part in another marriage ceremony. If the Friar had just left the matter in the parent’s hands, Romeo nor Juliet would have died.   

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