A Detailed Analysis of the Dramatic Contribution That Friar Lawrence Makes to William Shakespeare’s Tragic Love Story ‘Romeo and Juliet’

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A detailed analysis of the dramatic contribution that Friar Lawrence makes to William Shakespeare’s tragic love story ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Ben Jonson once claimed that William Shakespeare (1564-1616) “wanted art” (lacked skill) and this viewpoint can be instantly refuted by the manner in which Shakespeare handles the role of Friar Lawrence in ‘Romeo and Juliet’. The conventional love play, featuring characters who are supposedly doomed from the start and whose “outcome is destined to be lose-lose” (Pam Marshall), can be viewed as a simple story with an outcome which will move the Elizabethan audience. However, Shakespeare can be seen to challenge the ideas of fate, belief through the character of Friar Lawrence and the themes of light and darkness. In this essay, I will look at the role of Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet – in particular, the eventual tragic deaths of the “star-crossed” lovers – and the manner in which Shakespeare uses Friar Lawrence as a means to challenge ideas of fate and light/darkness through his use of language, imagery and metaphor. From the first appearance of Friar Lawrence in Act 2 Scene 3, we can see that he uses a lot of contrasts which help to depict the dramatic contrasts in the entire play. His statements such as, “eastern clouds with streaks of light; and flecked darkness like a drunkard reels” and “baleful weeds and precious-juiced flowers” show that Friar Lawrence helps to set-up the contrasts within the entire play, and that he hints towards the eventual deaths of Romeo and Juliet. The contrasts between ‘tomb’ and ‘womb’ in the line “the earth that’s nature’s mother is her tomb; what is her burying grave, that is her womb”, also show for the audience that the fate of Romeo and Juliet is almost foretold and that despite the play resulting in their deaths, their families will begin a new ‘life’ as allies. Friar Lawrence
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