Who is Friar Laurence?

Friar Laurence is a key character in Romeo and Juliet. He is a Franciscan monk who lives on his own in a humble shack in the countryside near Verona. He is a kind of doctor, gathering herbs, from which he makes medicines for various conditions. He is well-known in and around Verona, -including among the teenagers of the town – and is someone they know as a friend who understands young people and is always available to advise and help them.

As a character, Laurence gets caught up in the fast-developing tragedy of the two teenagers’ star-crossed love affair. Being ‘caught up’ doesn’t adequately describe the situation as it implies passivity. He is a character, seen by the audience as a person, but the character, “Friar Laurence,” is a dramatic device in the structure of the play. He is not just a minor device – he is vital to the development of the text, driving the drama by his actions, and for that reason, the character “Friar Laurence” is a major element of the play.

Paul Giamatti plays Friar Laurence

Why does Friar Laurence marry Romeo & Juliet?

Friar Laurence is kind, compassionate and thoughtful, and deeply concerned about the feud that is blighting what is an otherwise prosperous and beautiful town. When Romeo comes to him, telling him he is in love with Juliet and asking him to marry them he is horrified. They are so young, and, after all, wasn’t it just the day before that Romeo was sighing with unrequited love for another girl, Roseline? He begins to counsel Romeo with a view to changing his mind but then he sees it as a way of bringing about peace between the two leading families of Verona and agrees to marry them. It is an ancient feud and he’s excited at the prospect of bringing it to an end by facilitating the union of the children of the two family patriarchs.

That is the first of his plot drivers. He then goes on to make decision after decision, all of which are mistakes, and all major plot development moments. Some bad luck (such as his message not being delivered because of Padua being quarantined and his messenger being blocked from entry into the town) adds to the growing mess as well. His plan to drug Juliet so that she will appear to be dead, later to be revived and carried away by Romeo, would have worked if Romeo had received the message telling him about the plot. And then, when Juliet wakes up in the tomb and finds that Romeo has killed himself Laurence fails to get her to leave the tomb with him. He hurries away without her because he is afraid of being caught by the watch in the middle of this carnage. Because of his failure, she also commits suicide.

Friar Laurence is a good man, though, and when the parents arrive he owns up to his part in the tragedy. Ironically, he has achieved his goal of peace between the two families, although not in the way that he had envisaged. The two family heads shake hands and agree to raise a monument to the two young people and end their feud.

Top Friar Laurence Quotes

Young men’s love lies
Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes (act 2 scene2)

But come, young waverer, come, go with me.
In one respect I’ll thy assistant be,
This alliance may so happy prove
To turn your households’ rancour to pure love (act 2 scene 3)

A lover may bestride the gossamers
That idles in the wanton summer air,
And yet not fall, so light is vanity (act 2 scene 6)

So smile the heavens upon this holy act
That after-hours with sorrow chide us not (act 2 scene 6)


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