Friar Lawrence was up early. The clouds in the eastern sky were streaked with light as the night scurried out of the way of the advancing day. He looked up from time to time. He wanted to fill his basket with a mixture of poisonous and healing herbs before the sun came up to dry the dew.
He loved nature. He often thought about the soil – about the way that it encompassed the whole of life. It was a grave that took all life into itself when it died but it was also a mother, from which all new life sprang.
Plants fascinated him. He felt that every single plant had great value: even those we think are vile have some power and grace. Every living thing was special although nothing was so good that it couldn’t be dangerous if it was abused.
He held a young plant up and stared at it in wonder. Even this little flower had both poisonous and healing qualities. If you smelt it it would heal your ailments: if you swallowed it you would die. People were like that too – they had both good and evil in them.
A youth was coming towards him through the tall grass. ‘Morning, Father,’ he called.
‘Ah,’ said the Friar as Romeo reached him, panting. ‘Who’s this then, visiting me so early in the morning? Is there something wrong, my boy, being up so early? You must be worried about something or you’d be in your bed, fast asleep. We old men know what it’s like to lie awake all night, worrying, but you youngsters can sleep soundly at any time. So to see you here so early makes me think you’ve got something on your mind. In any case, I can tell that you’ve not even been to bed tonight.’
‘You’re right there,’ said Romeo. ‘I had a better rest.’
‘God pardon you,’ said Friar Lawrence. ‘Have you been with Rosaline?’
‘Rosaline?’ Romeo’s brow furrowed. ‘No. I’ve forgotten that name and everything about her.’
‘That’s my boy,’ said the Friar. ‘But where have you been then?’
‘Come on, Father. I’ll tell you all about it on the way to your chapel.’ Romeo couldn’t keep the excitement out of his voice as they walked.
‘I was feasting with my enemies when suddenly one of them wounded me. In fact I inflicted a wound too. But you’re the one who can heal us both.’
‘Speak plainly,’ said the Friar. ‘I don’t understand what you’re getting at.’
‘To put it plainly, I’ve fallen in love with Capulet’s daughter, and she with me. And to cut a long story short, you must marry us, and you must agree to marry us today.’
The Friar had stopped. ‘Holy St. Francis’ ‘ he exclaimed. ‘What a turnabout. Have you forgotten Rosaline? Am I to understand that young men love with their eyes and not their hearts? Jesu Maria. You cried buckets for Rosaline. The sound of your groans is still ringing in my ears. Look. Here on your cheek, there’s the stain of a tear. It was Rosaline this and Rosaline that yesterday and now it’s all changed.’
‘You told me off all the time for loving Rosaline.’
‘For being infatuated, not loving, my boy.’
‘And told me to bury love.
‘Not to dig another one up.’
‘Please,’ said Romeo. ‘Don’t reprimand me. The one I love now loves me in return. The other didn’t.’
‘Because she could see you didn’t mean it.’ Friar Lawrence was thinking. Marrying the two young people from the feuding families would be a disaster and he couldn’t possible agree to it. Or could he? It may be the best way of bringing the families together. It could just be the salvation of Verona. It took him a second to decide. ‘Come on then, you young rascal,’ he said. ‘Come with me. This is one thing I can help you with. This could be the answer: the thing to turn your households’ hatred into love.’
‘Well let’s hurry then,’ said Romeo. ‘I can’t wait.’
‘Slow down,’ said the Friar as Romeo started running. ‘You’ll stumble if you try to go too fast.’