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Friar Lawrence MODEL ESSAY (1)

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Explore how Shakespeare presents Friar Lawrence’s role as a guide and advisor to other
characters in the play.
The Friar is a pseudo-father figure to both Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare uses him to contrast
Capulet and Montague, revealing their faults as patriarchs. The Friar is also a moral and spiritual
guide to the audience throughout the play.
In this extract, it is clear that the Friar sees himself as a teacher to Romeo as he calls him, ‘pupil
mine’. The possessive personal pronoun ‘mine’ shows how he feels responsible for teaching and
guiding young Romeo away from potential sin. Calling him by the noun ‘pupil’ demonstrates the
Friar’s superior experience and knowledge – highlighting Romeo’s apparent naivety and therefore,
vulnerability. This foreshadows how Romeo turns to the sins of murder and suicide as a ‘desperate
man’, after he is banished from Verona and the guiding words of the Friar cannot reach him.
Shakespeare presents the Friar’s guidance as being vital for Romeo’s soul.
This scene also reveals the father-son relationship that the Friar and Romeo have. Romeo complains
that the priest chides him ‘oft’. This adverb of frequency shows the regularity of their meetings and
the usual proceedings of Romeo being criticised by the Friar, as a father would to a wayward son.
Shakespeare uses a metaphor those who ‘stumble that run fast’ which has connotations of careless
children in need of parental guidance. This suggests that the Friar views Romeo as an over-confident
child whose rushed love will cause him to ‘stumble’. This echoes the Aristotelian idea of a tragic hero
having an inevitable fall from pride, to their death. Shakespeare shows that the Friar is aware of
Romeo’s tragic flaw of falling in love to deeply and quickly.
Shakespeare creates dramatic irony for the audience through the Friar’s advice. The imperative
warning, ‘love moderately’ is a command to Romeo to be careful, slow and reserved in pursuing his
love. The audience are aware that Romeo and Juliet are ‘star-cross’d lovers’ and that the Friar’s
warnings are futile. It is also ironic as the Friar then proceeds to marry the lovers, despite his obvious
concerns. Shakespeare therefore creates a sense of impending doom for the couple as not even the
word of a wise Friar can prevent their tragic fate. The Friar’s warning about Romeo’s loving nature
adds to the audience’s sympathy, as it is his love which propels his fate to die.
The Friar also acts as a father and guide to Juliet, after she is told that she must marry Paris, despite
her clear refusal. Capulet had declared that he would ‘drag’ his only daughter to the church if he had
to, showing his lack of fatherly love or Christian morals. Capulet had clearly asserted his authority as
the patriarch of the family, causing Juliet to desperately seek out help from the priest. Shakespeare
shows the flaws of the patriarchal family structures of his time by contrasting Capulet and the Friar
with adjacent scenes in act four. He suggests therefore, that the church and faith can offer solace
where the family cannot.
Juliet is (like Romeo), desperate for help as she exclaims ‘I long to die’ and threatens to kill herself
with a ‘bloody knife’. Shakespeare presents the Friar as calm and pragmatic, (as usual) as he tries to
prevent Juliet committing sin against herself. The Friar promises that he will give Juliet ‘remedy’ in
the form of a potion. Here the Friar is more than an advisor; he is an active participant, trying to
prevent and delay fate through the use of ‘medicine’. Earlier in the play, Shakespeare uses the
oxymoron of ‘medicine’ and ‘poison’ to show the Friar as being interested in both. This contrast of
life preserving and ending plants reveals the Friar’s plan to ‘heal’ Juliet by having her ‘appear like
death’. This simile demonstrates again that Romeo and Juliet are constantly on the edge of life and
death – fate being in control of their destiny. Shakespeare presents the paradox of a healing and
witch-like friar to show to conflict between faith and fate in the play. God’s word, through the priest
is not enough to prevent fate from prevailing. A contemporary audience may be shocked by a priest
meddling with potions and plotting as witchcraft was a crime and punishable by death. However,
this shows how far the Friar will go to protect the innocent youths who have sought his help. He
must protect the holy union of the marriage that he ordained.
Shakespeare presents the Friar as a guide and surrogate father to both protagonists in the play, to
emphasise the failings of their own parents, the importance of faith in God, and to provide
opportunities to attempt to overcome fate. His advice allows the tragedy to be delayed, and
therefore create suspense for the audience. The audience are comforted by the Friar as a constant
moral compass in the play as a reminder of the sins being committed and the severity of their tragic,
inevitable outcomes.

Additional Point:
The Friar not only guides the characters but also the audience. Shakespeare achieves this through
the Friar’s powerful soliloquy. He uses the oxymoronic metaphor, ‘virtue itself turns to vice, if
misapplied’. This is the key issue of the play, made clear to the audience as he speaks only to them.
The juxtaposition between the abstract nouns, ‘virtue’ and ‘vice’ leave the audience to determine
how these terms are shown in the play – love turns to sin as it has been mistreated. The Friar subtly
guides the audience to pause and look at how various characters and mishaps cause love to turn to
sin. This is significant as both Protestants and Catholics considered suicide as sinful in this period.
The chorus in the prologue tells us that the lovers will ‘take their life’ which is the ‘vice’ that he is
alluding to. The Friar therefore acts as a guide to the audience to observe how this tragic outcome
can be possible and can deserve their sympathy. The Friar success that ‘accidents’ and ‘unhappy
fortune’ are to blame, not any one mistake or character. The mistreatment of Romeo and Juliet’s
love is something that the priest desperately tries to prevent, but more powerful forces are clearly at
work.
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