Romeo and Friar Lawrence are portrayed as having a trusting relationship, and Romeo often consults Friar Lawrence for advice. At the beginning of the play in act 1 scene 1, Romeo is perceived as weak. He behaves differently to what we consider the stereotypical tragic hero in a play. This is clear when Montague informs Benvolio that Romeo goes out,
“With tears augmenting the fresh morning dew.”
This quotation reflects the fact that Romeo is an emotional character. As dew is already wet and his tears augment it, it shows that he is truly crying and not just sobbing. Romeo may be crying as he feels under attack from love. This is when he is in love with Rosaline. The issue of weakness comes from Romeo crying, when we see him as a relatively strong tragic hero later on in the play. Shakespeare may have shown Romeo like this to reveal his vulnerable state, which could contribute to the tragic ending.Order now
Romeo has an impulsive personality quite like Friar Lawrence. We see this in many scenes, but in particular Act 1 scene 5, when Romeo sees Juliet and instantly falls in love with her. He talks about Juliet as being better than everything else.
“O she doth teach the torches to burn bright.”
Before meeting Juliet, Romeo was infatuated with Rosaline. He shows his impulsiveness by seeing Juliet’s beauty and instantly falling in love with her. The word ‘teach’ shows that Juliet hypothetically knows better than the torches how to burn bright. And the use of ‘burn bright’ shows that she gets rid of all darkness. The audience might think that Shakespeare is trying to imply that Juliet gets rid of the darkness in Romeo, meaning she makes him happy again. Alternately others may think that Shakespeare is trying to suggest that Juliet lights up a room when she walks in. Either way, in Romeo’s eyes she is something special.
Friar Lawrence agrees to secretly marry Romeo and Juliet at Romeo’s request. This shows how close he is to Romeo, as he will go through with something like marrying them for him, showing Friar Lawrence’s naive side. In act 2 scene 3 he agrees to the marriage by saying
“To turn your house holds rancure to pure love.”
This quotation shows that Friar Lawrence, despite being an honest and respected figure at the heart of the community, is also naive in his belief that the marriage of Romeo and Juliet will end the ongoing family feud between the Montagues and the Capulets. Friar Lawrence knows that the wedding will be in secret, so for him to believe it will end the family feud, disputes with the priest character we think of as wise. Friar Lawrence’s quick agreement could be because he responds to Romeo as a father would to his son, and consequently will do all he can to help. Some believe the point Shakespeare is enforcing is that Romeo and Friar Lawrence are quite close. Others believe Shakespeare has portrayed Friar Lawrence like this to show the difference between him and the stereotypical priest.
In the times when this play was written, priests were seen as the heart of the community and highly trusted.
In Act 3 Scene 3 Friar Lawrence condemns Romeo’s ingratitude of Banishment. This shows that Friar Lawrence influences Romeo and has a certain amount of control over him. He mentions the fact that
“The law that threatened life becomes thy friend.”
Friar Lawrence tries to get across the point that the Prince is being merciful by not executing him. Just before Friar Lawrence makes this optimistic point, he had been insulting Romeo by saying his “tears are womanish”. Not only does he criticize Romeo about his reaction to his banishment, the quotation reflects the inequality and prejudice regarding woman in the 1600’s. Inequality is also shown is some scenes where Juliet is present, as she is treated as a victim throughout the play. Later on in this scene, Friar Lawrence starts to advise Romeo what to do next. Shakespeare could have shown Friar Lawrence like this, as he sees Romeo like a son and the way he is treating him is like a son. However you could argue that Friar Lawrence is trying to control Romeo, which could affect his decisions and lead to some of his impulsive actions.
It is Friar Lawrence’s idea for Juliet to fake her death, on the night before her wedding to Paris. This shows he has good intentions, but they don’t always go to plan. In act 4 scene 1 Friar Lawrence says to Juliet,
“That cop’st with death itself to scape from it.”
He only puts this idea into her head of taking sleeping potion to stop her actually killing herself. He figures that for her to fake her own death would cause fewer problems than if she was actually dead. Friar Lawrence’s plan did not work, this is because the message he sent did not reach Romeo. The audience may think that the message not reaching Romeo was outside of Friar Lawrence’s control. Others may argue that he should have taken precautions to make sure Romeo received the message. Shakespeare may have shown Friar Lawrence’s “good intentions” to prove he is not entirely responsible for the tragic end to the play.
Towards the end of the play the character of Friar Lawrence is portrayed differently, as he selfishly puts himself first, leaving Juliet to kill herself. You could argue that Shakespeare shows him like this to show the cowardliness in him. Others may say that calling Friar Lawrence a coward is too strong, as he has helped Romeo and Juliet throughout the play.
Tybalt is the main encourager of the on going family feud between the Montagues and the Capulets. He narrows the intensity and desire of hatred of all Montagues to just Romeo. In act 1 scene 5 Tybalt describes Romeo to Capulet as,
“A villain that is hither come in spite.”
This is when Tybalt has seen Romeo at the Capulet ball and wanted to fight him, but Capulet stops him. The use of the word ‘villain’ proves Tybalt’s hatred of Romeo. This is because in the 1600’s when Shakespeare wrote this play, to call someone a villain was a huge insult. Tybalt refers to Romeo as being a villain at least twice in the play, as he also says “thou art a villain” when speaking directly to Romeo. Shakespeare introduces Tybalt’s character early on in the play, meaning his input is relevant to the tragic ending.
Fate is another aspect that contributes to the death of Romeo and Juliet at the end of the play. When the play was written, fate was thought to be determined by the stars. There are many references with in the play of Romeo’s fate being determined by the stars. In act 2 scene 2 Romeo refers to him falling in love with Juliet as fate. This shows that there are some things out of his control, hence the line’
“Love goes toward love, as school boys go toward towards their books.”
This reflects that Romeo believes falling in love with Juliet was a predetermined pathway already planned for him. Also as school boys have to go towards their books; it gives a sense that Romeo and Juliet have to be with one another. Shakespeare is ultimately responsible for the deaths of the two lovers, but as Romeo is a tragic hero in a tragic play, it is fate that he will die.
In act 5 scene 1, Balthasser travels to Mantua to inform Romeo that Juliet is “dead”, Friar Lawrence’s message has not reached him. From this point on he starts to take control of his life. Romeo says,
“I defy you stars”
This shows that before this point in the play, the character of Romeo believed he was being controlled by a higher being. For him to say he now defies or goes against this being is a big step for him. Unfortunately Romeo’s impulsiveness returns and he goes to the apothecary to purchase the poison that eventually kills him. Shakespeare may have added this line to show Romeo’s grief over Juliet’s death. Others may argue that Shakespeare added the line in to emphasise the fact that Romeo is now taking control of his own life.
Romeo and Tybalt are similar, as they are both the young Impulsive males of their families, they are also both emotional. Despite the similarities, they are also very different, as Romeo is a love sick teenager full of love, and Tybalt’s only love is to hate. In act 3 scene 1 Tybalt accuses Romeo of causing him “injuries” by saying,
“This shall not excuse the injuries, that thou hast done me.”
This is a ridiculous accusation, as Romeo has not caused any injuries to Tybalt. The “injury “Tybalt is referring to, is Romeo going to the Capulet ball. At the ball, Capulet embarrassed Tybalt by showing his disapproval of him fighting with Romeo there and then. The fact that Romeo and Tybalt are so alike, yet so different is why they clash. Shakespeare may have added the rivalry between Romeo and Tybalt to emphasise the impulsiveness of both young males. Also it may be to allow the audience to realise that Romeo is impulsive in other things and not just when it comes to falling in love.
Capulet is devastated when Tybalt is killed. Capulet himself is also partly responsible, for the tragic ending of the play. During the play, Capulet’s protection of his family fades. At the beginning of the play, Shakespeare has Capulet telling Paris that Juliet is not yet fourteen and too young to marry. Yet after Tybalt’s death in Act 3 scene 5, Capulet is irate with his daughter for refusing to marry. He shouts at her,
“Hang thee, young baggage disobedient wretch!”
This shows Capulet’s hypocritical side, as originally he says Juliet can’t marry for another two years. It also shows that he has a quick and bad temper that he can’t control. Capulet forcing Juliet to marry against her will, shows the stigma attached to woman at the time when ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was written, as women were seen as inferior to men. Juliet has no say in who she marries, yet Paris is allowed to choose Juliet like an object. Capulet calling his own daughter “young baggage” and “disobedient wretch” shows how angry and bad tempered he really is. Shakespeare may have added Capulet’s Character to the play, to show the “inequality” towards woman at the time. Others may argue that his Character is added to show Juliet as a victim throughout the play. Capulet’s anger is what eventually leads to Juliet going to Friar Lawrence and receiving the potion.
In my opinion, Friar Lawrence did have a level of responsibility for the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, but you can’t blame just one character or factor. There are many things that contribute to the fatal ending. Most characters play at least a small part, also a combination of Romeo’s impulsiveness and fate and of course Shakespeare’s decision is what ends the play so tragically. The real tragedy is Juliet dying, as Romeo is a tragic hero so was always going to die!