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In every person’s life there are many factors that occur throughout, both negative and positive influences that alter the path one chooses. In the world renowned play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, the tragic outcome is brought about by the lovers’ trusted friend, Friar Lawrence. To begin with, Friar Lawrence is to blame for setting the events into motion by marrying Romeo and Juliet. Then, Friar Lawrence is responsible for Juliet receiving the potion that causes everyone to believe that she is truly dead. Finally, Friar Lawrence could have prevented the two deaths by simply making sure that Romeo gets the message as he assured Juliet he would. So ultimately, Friar Lawrence is responsible for the star crossed lovers’ demise, because they wrongly trust the Friar and his influence causes Romeo and Juliet to make all the wrong decisions thus bringing about their downfall.
Before any tragic incidents actually occur in the play, Friar Lawrence sets the entire series of unfortunate events into motion by secretly marrying Romeo and Juliet. When Romeo first arrives at the Friar’s cell to declare the love he now feels for Juliet, Friar Lawrence immediately notes how foolish Romeo is being, for just the day before he had been so in love with Rosaline and devastated that she did not return that love. Friar Lawrence says, “Is Rosaline, that thou didst love so dear, / So soon forsaken? … And art thou chang’d? Pronounce this sentence then: / Women may fall, when there’s no strength in men” (2.3.66-80). Friar Lawrence right away states that it is ridiculous that Rosaline, with whom Romeo was borderline obsessed, has already been replaced with a girl in a matter of days. However, Friar Lawrence then blatantly turns around and contradicts what he says about Romeo behaving foolishly, by agreeing to marry Romeo and Juliet. Friar Lawrence agrees saying, “In one respect I’ll thy assistant be. / For this alliance may so happy prove, / To turn your households’ rancour to pure love” (2.3.90-92). Friar Lawrence agrees to secretly wed Romeo and Juliet despite what he says earlier about the proposal. Friar Lawrence could have easily prevented the tragedy if he had just gone with his first instincts. However, he sees the opportunity to stop the feuding between the Capulets and Montagues and jumps at it to become the big hero, therefore making him selfish and irresponsible as well as a bad influence. Friar Lawrence sets Romeo and Juliet’s deaths into motion the second he agrees to Romeo’s plan, and in doing so Friar Lawrence is to blame for the untimely deaths of Romeo and Juliet.
Not only does Friar Lawrence trigger Romeo and Juliet’s demise, he also continues the chain of tragic decisions by giving Juliet the sleeping potion that leads Romeo to kill himself. When Juliet runs to Friar Lawrence’s cell in utter desperation, he should have taken the time to advise her against such drastic measures and help her make the responsible choice where Romeo is concerned. Instead, Friar Lawrence hands her a sleeping potion that will create the illusion of death for the drinker:
Take thou this vial, being then in bed,
And this distilling liquor drink thou off,…
Now when the bridegroom in the morning comes
To rouse thee from thy bed, there art thou dead (4.1.93-108).
Friar Lawrence assures Juliet that everything will be okay and the potion will work in tricking her parents and Paris into believing she is truly dead. He places the vial in her hand and does not do anything to prevent Juliet from making this fatal decision. Friar Lawrence just continues to reassure Juliet by saying, “And hither shall he come, and he and I /Will watch thy waking, and that very night / Shall Romeo bear thee hence to Mantua” (4.1.115-117). Friar Lawrence promises Juliet that word of their plans will reach Romeo and when she wakes from her sleep-like trance, Romeo will be there to run away with her to Mantua. Friar Lawrence just keeps on telling Juliet that it will all work out fine, without pausing to think about all the possible dangers and side effects that may come from drinking the vial. Again, Friar Lawrence is being irresponsible and rash, holding two teen’s lives in his hands. Friar Lawrence gets carried away and swept up in Romeo and Juliet’s twisted fantasy and helps Juliet make a foolish decision that helps bring about the lover’s demise. Therefore, Friar Lawrence is to blame for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.
Even after all the irresponsible choices Friar Lawrence makes throughout the play, he still could prevent the tragic outcome by simply making sure that Romeo receives news of the Friar’s and Juliet’s plan. But alas, Friar Lawrence does not follow through and assure that the messenger arrives soundly in Mantua. One of the main reasons Juliet is able to take the potion without many concerns or worries is because she thinks that when she wakes in the monument, Romeo will be there to whisk her away with him. When Juliet is confused and in a highly vulnerable state, Friar Lawrence hands her the vial saying, “In the mean time, against thou shalt awake, / Shall Romeo by my letters know our drift” (4.1.113-114). Friar Lawrence tells Juliet that while they wait for her to awake, Romeo will receive a letter informing him of their plans. However, the messenger Friar Lawrence sends, Friar John, never makes it to Romeo and by the time Friar Lawrence actually finds out, he knows that a great mistake has taken place and danger is going to ensue:
Unhappy fortune! By my brotherhood,
The letter was not nice but full of charge,
Of dear import, and the neglecting it
May do much danger (5.3.17-20).
Friar Lawrence finally realizes the danger that Romeo and Juliet face. He understands that something terrible may happen because the information never reaches Romeo. However, it is too late by the time he arrives at the monument and Romeo, who received false information from Balthasar, is already lying dead beside his stirring wife. When Juliet does officially wake, she is devastated to see her loving Romeo dead, and desperate to be with him again. Instead of calming Juliet down and bringing her to safety, Friar Lawrence selfishly runs away when he hears the Watch coming. He leaves a desperate teenage girl there to stab herself and be with her Romeo for eternity. The incident with the letter leads Romeo to commit suicide and subsequently have Juliet kill herself to be with Romeo. The Friar does not make sure that the letter reaches Romeo and two premature deaths occur instead, conclusively leaving Friar Lawrence to blame.
Friar Lawrence is a trusted friend and confident of Romeo and Juliet, yet he negatively influences the two lovers and guides them down a wrong path ending with a double suicide. Friar Lawrence triggers the start of the downfall by irrationally agreeing to wed Romeo and Juliet. Friar Lawrence then gives Juliet bad counsel and advises her to make a catastrophic decision the second he places the vial of sleeping potion into her palm. Friar Lawrence still could evade the entire tragedy, but inadvertently breaks his promise to Juliet and never assures that the letter makes it to Romeo in Mantua. The star crossed lovers’ downfall is caused by the irresponsible and selfish Friar Lawrence because if Romeo and Juliet had not gone to Friar Lawrence for counsel and advice, they would not have been encouraged to follow through with their foolish fantasy and lived. The love between Romeo and Juliet was genuine, and the pain they felt when they heard of the other’s death was real. Knowing that one person, especially someone as close to them as Friar Lawrence, is to blame for the tragic ending is horrible and tragic in itself, because if Friar Lawrence had just thought through his actions Romeo and Juliet might have lived a long and happy life together.