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Romeo and Juliet the Soliloquy of Friar Laurence and How It Predicts the Story to Follow

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The soliloquy of Friar Laurence and how it predicts the story to follow

The soliloquy of Friar Laurence plays a huge role in the story to come. He is Romeo's mentor and confidante. His soliloquy gives us better insight to his character and we get to know just what kind of person the Friar is. We learn that Friar meant well but nonetheless he created many disasters which could have been avoided. Romeo trusts the Friar because the Friar is Romeo’s mentor and confidant. He tells him almost everything including his love for Juliet.
The Friar wants nothing more than then for rivalry between the Capulet and the Montague families to end so he agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet as he feels that the feud will end once the two families are united. Sadly however, he does it in such a secret manner that it caused more harm than good.
He talks about the healing power of herbs but also how poisonous those same herbs could be. The soliloquy foreshadows and acts as an omen for the tragic events to come. The earth and all its creatures have a lot of good qualities and uses but if they are used inappropriately then the outcomes could be unwanted or even dangerous. That is why the same plant or herb that is used to heal could also kill if not used correctly. The Friar is also comparing the plants to humans saying that we can be both good and bad.
When we read the following lines that the Friar Lawrence says, “The gray-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night,/Check’ring the eastern clouds with streaks of light,/And fleckled darkness like a drunkard reels/From forth day’s path and Titan’s fiery wheels./Now ere the sun advance his burning eye,/The day to cheer and night’s dank dew to dry.” (2.3. 1-6) we are taken to a scene in the morning.
We could say that he enjoys the mornings as he uses the word “smiles” when he describes it and
“frowning” when he describes the night. We can also tell that he is a hard worker as he is up at the crack of dawn. We could also assume that the he is saying that the day is bright and good whilst the night is dark and evil.
When we read the next few lines of the soliloquy we discover the purpose of him being outside so early.
He is harvesting the morning fruit and vegetables for the day. Many monastics grew their own food outside on the monastery in those times and therefore knew a lot about plants and their uses. He fills up his “osier cage” (2.3. 7) which is most likely a basket “with baleful weeds and precious-juiced flowers”.
(2.3. 8) The flowers and herbs can be deceptively harmful just as people can suddenly turn rotten once badly influenced or corrupted even if they were once good.

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He then says, "the earth that's nature's mother is her tomb; /what is her burying grave that is her womb" (2.3.9-10). He is very appreciative of the earth and what it can do for us. He makes use of a paradox when describing the earth and how vital it is for us living being but when we die it becomes a tomb. In the very next line he describes the earth as a womb. Everything that grows, grows from the earth, once it dies it returns to the earth and thus the earth is both tomb and womb.
Friar Lawrence shows us exactly how much knowledge he has of the plants and herbs in lines 15 – 22.
“O mickle is the powerful grace that lies/In plants, herbs, stones, and their true qualities./For naught so vile that on the earth doth live/But to the earth some special good doth give;/Nor aught so good but, strained from that fair use,/Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse./Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied,/And vice sometime by action dignified. (2.3.15-22) He gives us great descriptions of how the plants can be both good and evil dependent on how it is used and the intention of the user. The line
“Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied” (2.3. 21) was especially forthcoming of the events to come.
He was virtuous when he agreed to marry the pair but because his good intensions were misapplied and thus became a vice. If you read the play with the knowledge of what is going to happen because you have heard the story before it is quite obvious that his soliloquy serves as a premonition but if you have not yet come across the story of Romeo and Juliet it is so subtle that you miss it till the very end when you realize his words came true.
In those times medicine was not as developed and many religious leaders also played the role of healer.
He tells us in his soliloquy that not only does he have great knowledge of how the plants can heal he also knows just how vicious and poisonous they can be. The line “revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse” (2.3. 20) can be interpreted as the Friar believing all beings are good by nature but can also become bad if corrupted. The more you make misuse of a creature, being or plant the less good it will be and either in self defense because of their nature they will cause harm.
In his soliloquy he continuously dwells on plants and how they are like humans and he compares many things. He says “within infant rind of this weak flower/Poison hath residence and medicine power/For this being smelt, with that part cheers each part/being tasted, stays all senses with the heart./Two such opposed kings encamp the still/ in man as well as herbs-grace and rude will;/And where the worser is predominant,/Full soon and canker death eats up the plant.” (2.3. 21-30)This could mean that he thinks that the flower might smell nice but if consumed it can kill you. It could be a defense mechanism where the flower becomes poison when eaten just like humans can become killers when acting in self-defense.
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Unbeknownst to any of us the Friar told us exactly what will happen later in the play. He might have thought that he was doing a good thing for the city by marrying Romeo and Juliet but in the end he caused so much harm because of all his manipulation. He truly believed that the feud would end if the two families were united. As I mentioned before, his good virtuous intentions became harmful in the end. We learn that too much of a good thing can also be bad or evil and that sometimes bad things can be used for good. One example of how what the Friar says acts as a premonition is how the love between
Juliet and Romeo kills them and only after they died did the feud between the Capulets and the
Montagues end. Their love was good and well-intended though through misunderstandings they unfortunately died, but from that bad event, something good came. Was it not for them dying, the feud might not have ended as quickly.
Friar Lawrence may have had many good intentions but it all ended in tragedy because of how these intentions were acted out. It is possible that if he told everybody of his intentions none of this would have happened but alas, things do not always turn out the way we want them to be no matter what our intentions are at the time. We can even say that if it was not for the fact that the letter was not received by Romeo or if the Friar came to the tomb minutes earlier the whole tragedy could have been prevented. I found it ironic that Romeo had to die of poison after Juliet drank poison to fake her own death. The Friar spoke of poison in his soliloquy as if it were prophesy the event to come.
Shakespeare’s plays can mostly be grouped into one of three categories: tragedies, histories and comedies. Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy in the most ironic sense. The union of marriage is usually scared and that union should have been what brought the two families together. With the Friar’s words “Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied,/ And vice sometimes by action dignified” (2.3 21-22) he gives us the indication that the vice or rather the deaths that came from the virtue; the marriage of Romeo and
Juliet, was dignified. This can be shown when the misfortune coming from their deaths and the mourning of both families unifies them instead of the marriage. You can even go as far as saying both families shared an equal loss and felt the pain thus the feud was settled with cruel sacrificing in the final acts of Romeo and Juliet.

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References
Shakespeare, W. Romeo and Juliet. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2003.
Mabillard, A. ‘Friar Laurence.’ Shakespeare Online, http://www.shakespeareonline.com/plays/characters/friarbio.html, 2000, (accessed: 28/08/2014).
Glorioso, K. ‘Friar Laurence.’ towson.edu, http://pages.towson.edu/quick/romeoandjuliet/friar.htm,
(accessed: 29/08/2014).

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