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Friar Laurence


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FRIAR LAURENCE: O, mickle is the powerful grace that lies / In herbs, plants, stones, and their true qualities
[Act 2, scene 3] Shakespeare establishes in the Friar's introductory soliloquy that the character can manipulate plants for their "powerful grace" and "mickle" (many) uses, usefully establishing the skills that will allow for the sleeping potion of Act 4 to be a (relatively) realistic suggestion.
FRIAR LAURENCE: Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied; / And vice sometimes by action dignified.
[Act 2, scene 3] Shakespeare uses rhyming couplets throughout this soliloquy to establish a sermonistic, educative tone by making the Friar's speech sound like the delivery of a religious lesson, especially when exploring suhc religious topics like "virtue" and "vice". Here, Shakespeare has the Friar regonise that a "vice" (like the feud) can be turned to good "by action dignified" (like a marriage) but tragically fail to realise that "virtue" (like the couple's love) can turn "vice" (tragic death) "being misapplied". Dramatic irony again for an informed audience.
FRIAR LAURENCE: Two such opposed kings encamp them still / In man as well as herbs, grace and rude will; / And where the worser is predominant, / Full soon the canker death eats up that plant.
[Act 2, scene 3] More moralistic, sermon-like rhyme from the Friar, here delivering the message that good and bad are contained in each of us ("encamp them still / In man"). We will witness "Virtue itself" turned to "vice" when Tybalt's loyalt to the Capulets sees him break the Princes laws; when Mercutio dies displaying "brave" virtue for Romeo, and Romeo kills Tybalt defending his brotherly love for Mercutio. The fact Shakespeare has the Friar remind the audience that "where the worser is predominant / Full soon the canker death eats up that plant" the very moment before Romeo enters the stage must be a deliberate decision from Shakespeare to remind his audiences again of the running comparison to Romeo as "the bud".
FRIAR LAURENCE: God pardon sin! wast thou with Rosaline?
[Act 2, scene 3] Shakespeare is quick to establish the close, friendly, even fatherly relationship which Romeo has with the Friar - a parallel to Juliet and her nurse. The playwright establishes that the Friar clearly knows about Romeo's previous obsession with Rosaline, as well as allowing the priest to joke with Romeo about potentially having spent the night with her.
FRIAR LAURENCE: young men's love then lies / Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.
[Act 2, scene 3] The playwright continues the fatherly discourse between the Friar and Romeo, which can be delivered here with either genuine judgement or - more likely - playful disbelief. Shakespeare has the Friar accuse Romeo of lusting either after Rosaline, Juliet, or both, but Shakespeare has gone some way to enouraging us to trust the truth of their love - from the Prologue and what we've witnessed of the couple together on stage.
FRIAR LAURENCE: Lo, here upon thy cheek the stain doth sit / Of an old tear that is not wash'd off yet
[Act 2, scene 3] The playwright continues the Friar's admonistment of Romeo's quick change of hear, pointing out - albeit playfully - that there are still damp patches on Romeo's face from where he'd been crying about Rosaline. One might take this as evidence that Romeo is a fickle, changeable character, or we might take it as proof of the power of Romeo and Juliet's love to so quickly and completely convert this "pilgrim".
FRIAR LAURENCE: O, she knew well / Thy love did read by rote and could not spell. / But come, young waverer, come, go with me, / In one respect I'll thy assistant be; / For this alliance may so happy prove, / To turn your households' rancour to pure love.
[Act 2, scene 3] A final playful jibe from the Friar who tells us that Rosaline knew Romeo wasn't serious about her, instead repeating memorised well-worn romantic lines ("love did read by rote") rather than true feeling. Compare this to the impromptu mutual sonnet that our tragic coupe co-craft and it becomes an even apter metaphor. The final assurance of the scene, from Shakespeare, that the couple's love is legitimate comes from the Friar's agreement to marry them, hoping for the goodness to come from badness of the "households' rancour", as in his earlier speech.
FRIAR LAURENCE: So smile the heavens upon this holy act, / That after hours with sorrow chide us not!
[Act 2, scene 6] The first words on stage of the scene that will end with the couple heading off to be married. Shakespeare begins with the Friar here whose words - though said as a blessing here - are received bitterly by an audience who, through dramatic irony, know that "sorrow" is inevitable for the couple.
FRIAR LAURENCE: These violent delights have violent ends / And in their triumph die, like fire and powder, / Which as they kiss consume […] Therefore love moderately
[Act 2, scene 6] Shakespeare give the Friar here a moment of terrible insight into his advice to Romeo, foreshadowing the brilliance of their love through the simile ('like a lit match and gunpowder') but also the widely destructive potential. Rememeber that these lines are said on stage the scene before two deaths and a banishment; the "powder" is about to go off and "consume" the couple's "delights", propelling them towards "violent ends". The Friar's imperative to "love moderately" is sound advice and as close to a 'moral' as the play might have; extreme "violent" emotions of any kind result in pain and destruction.
FRIAR LAURENCE: thou art wedded to calamity
[Act 3, scene 3] A neat summary of the disaster that has unfolded in this act. Shakespeare, here, directly contrasts the last time Romeo and the Friar were on stage together, off to enact the "happy act" of marriage. The noun "calamity" here has evident connotations of disaster and ruin and thanks to the prologue we know - with dramatic irony as the characters do not know - how far the ruin will go.
FRIAR LAURENCE: thy wild acts denote / The unreasonable fury of a beast
[Act 3, scene 3] A description from the Friar of Romeo's first suicide attempt, as well as a broader criticism from Shakespeare of another occasion where men try to resolve their problems with violence.
FRIAR LAURENCE: You say you do not know the lady's mind: / Uneven is the course, I like it not.
[Act 4, scene 1] Faced with the news that Paris will imminently (attempt to) marry Juliet, the Friar's reply to Paris is filled with dramatic irony; his statements conveys both the lack of knowledge Paris has of "the lady's mind" and also the dangerour position the Friar finds himself in by facilitating the secret marriage.
FRIAR LAURENCE: A greater power than we can contradict / Hath thwarted our intents.
[Act 5, scene 3] Shakespeare has the Friar, here, obliquely blame God ("A greater power") for the failure of his plan. The greater power could also be the tragedy itself, the genre rules of which are too great to ignore.
FRIAR LAURENCE: their stol'n marriage-day / Was Tybalt's dooms-day
[Act 5, scene 3] When Shakespeare has the Friar recount the events of the play to the until-then-oblivious families, this line reminds us, once again, for brief the couple's happy marriage was allowed to be.
FRIAR LAURENCE: bear this work of heaven
[Act 5, scene 3] The only time that God is directly accused of the actions of the play - otherwise Shakespeare uses 'fate', 'stars' and 'fortune'.