The Poet has placed in the mouth of Friar Laurence a tranquil life-philosophy, which he first expresses in general terms, and then applies to the case of the lovers. Undeterred by the abhorrence that exists amid their families, they foolishly ally which sets off an alternation of abrupt accomplishments that advance to their deaths.
The Poet here rises immeasurably above his original, Arthur Brooke, who, in his naively moralising "Address to the Reader," makes the Catholic religion mainly responsible for the impatient passion of Romeo and Juliet and the disasters which result from it.
According to Gervinus, the Friar "represents, as it were, the part of the chorus in this tragedy, and expresses the leading idea of the piece in all its fullness, namely, that excess in any enjoyment, however pure in itself, transforms its sweet into bitterness; that devotion to any single feeling, however noble, bespeaks its ascendancy; that this ascendancy moves the man and woman out of their natural spheres; that love can only be an accompaniment to life, and that it cannot completely fill out the life and business of the man especially; that in the full power of its first feeling it is a paroxysm of happiness, the very nature of which forbids its continuance in equal strength; that, as the poet says in an image, it is a flower that 'Being smelt, with that part cheers each part; Being tasted, slays all senses with the heart.
Notes and references[ edit ]. Alone, he foreshadows the later, tragic events of the play with his soliloquy about plants and their similarities to humans.
He begins with a line prologue in the form of a Shakespearean sonnetspoken by a Chorus. Both Romeo and Juliet seek the admonition of the adults in their lives, but are met with carelessness according to their own.
It would be to misunderstand the whole spirit of the play if we were to reproach Friar Laurence with the not only romantic but preposterous nature of the means he adopts to help the lovers — the sleeping-potion administered to Juliet. He has been Romeo's spiritual adviser from early youth, his confidant in regard to Rosaline, and his aid is now sought to solve the difficulty of marriage with Juliet.
Even at the last when the tragic ending has come, and he is forced to unburden himself of his secret, though he palliates nothing, his confession of error is only conditional; "if aught in this," he says, "Miscarried by my fault, let my old life Be sacrificed some hour before his time Unto the rigour of severest law.
Lear, however, is different from other Shakespearean classics. Friar Laurence is full of goodness and natural piety, a monk such as Spinoza or Goethe would have loved, an undogmatic sage, with the astuteness and benevolent Jesuitism of an old confessor — brought up on the milk and bread of philosophy, not on the fiery liquors of religious fanaticism.