When looking at someone’s character, people can see the same trait in two completely different lights. While some view a trait as a strength, others see it as a weakness. In William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, traits like this run rampant. Despite coming from feuding families, Romeo and Juliet fall in love. They go to Friar Lawrence for help, hoping that he will help them get married. He agrees, fully committing his time and energy into this relationship. Shortly after the marriage, however, it becomes clear that this new relationship needs to be kept a secret. Seeing this, the Friar comes up with a dangerous and elaborate plan to achieve this immense task. His unbridled commitment to a cause is his most admirable trait, but it can also be the cause of his downfall.
Friar Lawrence is a man who dedicates himself to a cause he believes to be right, no matter what consequences they might bring. He weds Romeo and Juliet, saying, “In one respect I’ll thy assistant be; for this alliance may so happy prove to turn your households’ rancor into pure love” (2.3. 90-92). He believes that their marriage will join their houses together and stop the fighting. However, when Juliet’s father promises her to Count Paris afterwards, he has to come up with an elaborate plan to make sure they can stay together. He goes out of his way to ensure Juliet’s marriage to Paris does not occur. Unfortunately, the reason for his devotion is no longer just for the good of Verona. Just before Lord Capulet announces Juliet’s engagement to Paris, the Prince banishes Romeo for killing the surly Tybalt. Romeo is a criminal. If someone were to find out that Friar Lawrence allowed the two to get married, he could be severely punished, and Juliet’s family would disown her. Not only is it dishonorable to have a convict as a spouse, but Romeo and Juliet also got married without either of their parent’s blessings. While Friar Lawrence truly believes that their union could help all of Verona, he can no longer announce it. Now, due to Juliet’s new engagement and Romeo’s title of murderer, their marriage can bring more harm than good. The Friar is still dedicated to their relationship, but now he needs to prevent anyone from finding out about it.
While one could argue that Friar Lawrence’s devotion is merely an effect of his self preservation, his response to Romeo’s threat of suicide clearly disproves this. Romeo is arguably the most important person to the Friar. He acts as a father figure to the boy, allowing a lovesick Romeo to go on a tirade about his unreciprocated feelings just the day before. Now, when Romeo threatens to kill himself after his banishment, he is highly distressed. Desperate to talk him out of it, Friar Lawrence asks him, “Wilt thou slay thyself? And slay thy lady too…?”(3.3. 116-117). He attempts to make Romeo realize how killing himself would affect those who love him. News of his death would devastate Juliet, likely causing her to commit suicide herself. This, combined with a promise to get the two lovers back together again, is what convinces Romeo to set his knife down. Even if the Friar’s promise saves Romeo for the time being, it has only dug him into a deeper hole. Now not only does he have to keep their marriage a secret, but he also has to find a way to keep them together. He brings this work onto himself solely to keep Romeo safe. This shows how dedicated he is to Romeo, and how committed he is to keeping him safe.
Friar Lawrence is tenacious in his attempts to achieve a goal. He devotes himself to make his ideals a reality, simply to make his city a better place. He does everything in his power to protect the people he loves and make them happy. Friar Lawrence, at his core, is a man who will go to the extreme to make sure the people and city that he loves are safe. Unfortunately, sometimes his solutions cause more problems.
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