Friar Lawrence is perhaps one of the most ambiguous characters in Romeo and Juliet. A quick Google search for “Friar Lawrence character analysis” would only affirm that fact. The Friar “advances the plot with his wisdom and religious powers” (Castanalysis.com), yet “he is the most scheming and political of characters in the play” (Sparknotes.com). How innocent was he in the destruction of young Montague and Capulet, and what kind of a personality did he truly have?
I believe that the Friar was a dreamer, but when his dreams plummeted, he tried his best to save himself. He thought that when the children of the feuding families were united, the fighting would cease and peace would again resume in Verona, as told in Act II, Scene III: “For this alliance may so happy prove
To turn your households’ rancour to pure love” (Shakespeare).
After refusing to wed the children due to Romeo’s recently ended infatuation with Rosaline, he agreed only after he realized that the two families might stop fighting. And when Mercutio and Tybalt were killed and the Capulets and Montagues became even more set in their ways and Romeo was banished, he realized that what he had hoped for would not happen in quite that way. Instead of giving up, he devised a complicated and intricate (and hardly foolproof) plan to reunite the young lovers, this time more for their sake than for their parents, as the plan involved the two running away together. Admittedly, one could argue that his observation to help the city as a whole was admirable. Who cared if the lovers came to resent each other, as long as the bloodshed stopped? However, when that too fell apart, so did he. A dubiously supportive character through out the play, Friar Lawrence suddenly started to care more about his own well being than that of others. As a member of the church, his greatest priority should have been evoking the spirit and protection of the Lord, but when he faced detection, instead of staying for Juliet he left, as evident in Scene III of Act V. “Come, go, good Juliet. I dare no longer stay” (Shakespeare). But after both Romeo and Juliet, the two witnesses to his plans, had died, he again seemed to lapse back into the all-knowing genteel man from the previous acts. After a lengthy and past due explanation to Lord Monatgue and the Capulets, he finishes with:
“All this I know, and to the marriage
Her nurse is privy; and if aught in this
Miscarried by my fault, let my old life
Be sacrific'd, some hour before his time,
Unto the rigour of severest law” (Shakespeare).
The question this leaves me with is this: Why did it take the death of 6 people to get him to say this? If he had talked privately with each of the families (seeing as they both came to him for shrift) the news could have been taken almost calmly, if they believed that a respected member of their church deemed the union appropriate. And then when he did finally admit to the chance of any wrongdoing, he threw in the nurse’s...