How far do Juliet’s Nurse and Friar Lawrence contribute to the tragedy of the play? You should look closely at language and character in your answer.
Whilst the actions of Juliet’s Nurse and Friar Lawrence partially contribute to the play’s tragic nature, I believe that it was a number of factors, notably fate with a combination of individual weaknesses, that brought about the play’s tragic ending. I will discuss the contributors of the two characters and then draw my conclusion.
The Nurse contributes to the tragedy in several ways, for example by bringing the couple closer together by helping to arrange the marriage. On the night that Juliet met Romeo she said to him that to prove his love to her he must ask her to be his wife. This was as she had accidentally confessed her love for him whilst he was listening, and could not be sure he was telling the truth when he said he felt the same. The marriage. Although she undertook this task by instruction from Juliet, it would ultimately bring the couple together, which would have consequences as their families Nurse was therefore sent the next morning to see if Romeo had indeed arranged a disapproved of the two houses mixing. The Nurse could have
refused to take part in this deception, and could have told Juliet that what she was doing was wrong by going behind her parents’ backs. The Nurse also was a messenger for Juliet by going to fetch the rope ladder which would enable Romeo and Juliet to consummate their marriage – again bringing the couple closer together. The final plan which ended up in confusion and the tragedy, would not need ever been thought up if the couple weren’t close and did not have a relationship. This is one possible way in which the Nurse contributed to the tragedy.
The Nurse should have been trustworthier, and more understanding of what Juliet was feeling. At the beginning of the relationship between Romeo and Juliet, Juliet confided in her and so she knew what was happening, but by the time that a plan needed to be thought up Juliet did not tell her what was to happen. The Nurse did not really understand that Juliet did love Romeo, or she could just not sympathise with her situation. This is as when Lord Capulet asked if Juliet would marry Paris the Nurse offered Juliet no sympathy but simply told her “I think it best you married with the County”.
This is very hypocritical coming from the Nurse who once praised Romeo, and it is not a very thoughtful thing to say to Juliet who has told the Nurse and is clearly in love with Romeo. Illustrated throughout the play is the view Juliet’s Nurse has on love – her views are vulgar and not about true love. Her language is often crude. She advises Juliet to marry a very eligible and wealthy bachelor as she does not believe in loyal and faithful love. From this point Juliet tells the Nurse no more of her secrets, but if she could have it may have prevented the tragedy as she could have helped the plan to run more smoothly or not advised Juliet to participate in the plan – as it could go wrong, as it did. Her job is to care for and look after Juliet which she fails to do and this could be seen to indirectly bring about the tragedy of her death.
By using the Nurse to represent the carnal, selfish approach to male-female relations, the play highlights the romantic selfless nature of Juliet’s love. The contrast between the love the Nurse talks about and the one Juliet experiences makes her seem even more innocent. The audience is encouraged to emphasise with Juliet – making her eventual demise more tragic.
The Nurse is seen as a motherly figure in Romeo and Juliet, and it seems that the Nurse is closer with Juliet than Juliet’s own mother is. Perhaps if the Nurse was less close to Juliet, Juliet would have not needed to just confide in the Nurse and would have done so with her mother. This could have helped resolve the problem as her mother could have been more understanding and in the end prevented the tragedy. Also, as Juliet saw the Nurse as a mother-like figure she started off by confiding in her, but she was stuck when she could no longer tell her the plans due to the Nurse’s ignorance of her feelings, and her mother may have understood Juliet better and so she would be able to help her more.
Friar Lawrence can also be said to be responsible for the tragedy in “Romeo and Juliet”. Friar Lawrence knows both Romeo and Juliet well and appears to be a caring man with their best interests at heart. We know this as when Romeo comes to him to ask if he will marry the two, Friar Lawrence knows about his previous situation with Rosaline, and we know that even Romeo’s parents do not know about this situation with Rosaline. Therefore Romeo is obviously very close and sees the Friar as a father-like figure. Also we can tell he has a close relationship with Juliet as later on in the play when Romeo is banished, she goes to Friar Lawrence to seek help, and obviously he knows about the relationship whilst her parents do not.
Therefore I believe the Friar had good intentions and hoped for the best for the couple, and did definitely not wish for the events to take place but ultimately it was a large extent of his actions and plans, which brought about the tragedy.
Firstly, like the Nurse, he played a great part in bringing the couple closer together. Friar Lawrence agreed to marry the couple, even though he knew it would be without their parents consent, and in secret – which could in the end cause problems. If they had not married their relationship probably would not have continued as Juliet wouldn’t have proof that Romeo loved her, and therefore a plan would not need to be thought up, which is the cause of the tragedy as it went wrong.
He did have good intentions though believing this marriage would end the feud between the Capulets and Montagues, he agreed to Romeo to marry the couple believing it would “turn your households’ rancour to pure love”. This was perhaps quite a naï¿½ve thing to believe, as the feud was very apparent and a secret wedding between Romeo and Juliet would not bring into the light how petty the feud actually was, let alone overcome it. In the end however it did, but only through the deaths of these children, which was not intended, and it was only these deaths, which really could end the war between the houses.
When Juliet fled into Friar Lawrence’s cell saying that she would kill herself rather than marry Paris, Friar Lawrence had to think up a plan, which would keep these two together. So he thought up the plan where Juliet would take the potion and her family would think she were dead, and she would wake in the tomb where Romeo would find her and they would escape. His plan seemed well thought out, and would have worked if the message had got to Romeo informing him of the plan. However this was the main flaw in it all – it didn’t get to Romeo so the whole thing fell apart. Friar Lawrence had told Romeo to look out for a message from Balthasar, but Friar Lawrence decided to send Friar John to tell Romeo the details of the plan. This caused a number of problems. Firstly Friar John could not successfully send the letter of explanation due to a plague, which meant he could not go outside.
Therefore Balthasar got to Romeo quicker with the news that Juliet was dead, rather than just unconscious as part of the plan. As Romeo was looking out for Balthasar due to what Friar Lawrence had said, he would be pretty sure that what Balthasar was to say would be true. This is why he didn’t think twice that it could be a mistake or part of a plan when he heard the news. And it was this news that he acted upon which caused the eventual tragic end to the story. If Friar Lawrence had told Romeo beforehand that he would send Friar John, when Balthasar came with the news of Juliet’s apparent death, there would have been a possibility that Romeo would have realised it was part of a plan.
At the end of the play where Juliet wakes up to find Romeo’s dead body by her side, Friar Lawrence enters the tomb and has a short conversation with her and then leaves , “I dare no longer stay.” By this point in the play the realisations of the tragedy have surfaced and I think Friar Lawrence is scared of being discovered and also he is scared by a noise he hears outside the tomb. He foolishly leaves Juliet in the tomb – knowing that she is about to commit suicide. He is cowardly in leaving, and should try to protect her life by staying with her and persuading her to stay alive. Perhaps however he doesn’t want to interfere any more and is in such a state of shock and sadness that his plan has ended this way that he just leaves.
When the Friar is telling the Prince his version of events, he says “if aught in this miscarried by my fault, let my old life be sacrificed”, so we know that he has accepted that he made mistakes which could eventually make this tragedy his fault, and says he is prepared to be killed for doing so. In his last words to Juliet however he says “A greater power than we can contradict hath thwarted our intents” which means that he believes a greater power than we can oppose – fate – has messed up his intentions. So here he isn’t so much saying it’s his fault like at the end, but it is fate playing with his plans which has caused this tragedy.
Overall I can conclude that the Nurse and Friar Lawrence do play a part in this tragedy, especially the Friar, but their intentions were definitely good. The pair act as a sort of mother and father to both of the teenagers and try to do what they think best in the difficult situation they are put in, but there are other factors, notably fate, which contribute to tragedy of the play.
There are many references to fate in “Romeo and Juliet” and I believe this to be the main cause for the tragedy – it was seen all along. The first reference to fate comes even before the play starts, in the prologue; it states that the course of their love was destined for death. “The fearful passage of their death marked love”. As from the very beginning it is evident that they were ill-fated I think that the actions of the people are not to blame, as it was destined to happen. Indeed, the play is more tragic because of the role of fate – if the unhappy events had been entirely of man’s doing, the play would be sad, but less ‘tragic’.
Other examples of fate in the story are when Romeo is about to go to the Capulet party, where he will meet Juliet, and he says “with this night’s revels, and expire the term of a despised life clos’d in my breast, by some vile forfeit of untimely death”. Romeo is suspecting that what will happen that night will lead to his premature death. This is fate, as obviously hat night the two will meet which leads to their relationship and the final tragedy. We can tell here he is foreseeing what will happen in the future and so we cannot really blame the actions of people such as Friar Lawrence for the tragedy as it was seen to happen beforehand. Romeo mentions fate again, later in the play when he says “this day’s black fate on more days doth depend; this begins the woe others must end” – these words are spoken after the death of Mercutio. Romeo is predicting that Mercutio’s death threatens the future and that all of the unfortunate events, such as falling in love with his enemy, may be connected. From this it also illustrates that the tragedy was fated to happen, and I believe that it wasn’t the actions of people themselves, which are to blame. The tragedy was fated to happen I believe to end the feud between the Montagues and Capulets.
Following on from this, I can see that fate in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is linked with the feud between the two houses. The feud, therefore, I believe to be quite obviously one of the main factors, which resulted in the tragedy. This is because if there had never been a rift between the Montagues and Capulets then Romeo and Juliet could have probably married happily without protest and such a plan which turned out so wrong would have never need to have been thought up. And also I believe that the tragedy seems to have occurred in ending the feud, and it was only the deaths of these two children, which could end this feud.
This must have shown the parents of Romeo and Juliet how pathetic and pointless the feud was, and it had cost them such a price of their children’s lives to end it. At the end of the play the Prince says “Where be these enemies? Capulet, Montague, see what a scourge is laid upon your hate, that heaven finds means to kill your joys with love.” What the Prince was saying was that because the Capulets and Montagues had so much hate for each other, Romeo and Juliet ended up killing themselves to be together. Both families lost something very important to them and if the families would have stopped feuding then their children would have still been alive.
Tybalt as an individual can also be seen to contribute to the final tragedy. From the beginning of the play he is portrayed as an argumentative character and is very strongly anti-Montague. He triggers a fight at the beginning with Benvolio, and goes on to cause trouble and wants to fight Romeo after seeing him at the Capulet party. Then when Tybalt sees the Montagues then in the streets of Verona, Tybalt insults Romeo and is eager to fight him. Then with Mercutio sticking up for Romeo, he ends up in a fight with Tybalt and in his attempts to break up this fight Romeo accidentally causes Mercutio to be fatally wounded. Romeo in a state of despair and anger, furiously kills Tybalt leading to his banishment. It was due to this banishment that a plan was needed to keep Romeo and Juliet together. And so if Tybalt had not been so aggressive and hateful Romeo would have not felt the need to kill him, and so would not have been banished. Therefore I think that he partly contributed to the final tragedy.
To conclude, I think that Juliet’s Nurse and Friar Lawrence do contribute a fair amount to the tragedy, especially the Friar, but I think that it came about due to a number of factors. I believe that it was mainly fate combined with individual weaknesses – of the Friar, Juliet’s Nurse and Tybalt – which helped fate take its unfortunate course ultimately just to end the ancient feud.