9th Honors Literature
13 February 2014
Analysis of the Friar’s Figurative Language
Friar Laurence plays an important role in William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. The play is about two lovers, Romeo and Juliet, who fight against the wills of their families and fate in order to be with each other. However, their love and desire ultimately lead to their deaths as well as the deaths of many others. The Friar is an important father figure to Romeo and warns him of the dangers of his whirlwind romance with Juliet yet chooses to help them marry. Friar Laurence uses inverted word order and slant rhyme as well as imagery and metaphors to demonstrate his knowledge of the mistakes the young, impulsive lovers are making but doesn’t take responsibility or act on his intuition to prevent the tragedy that befalls Romeo and Juliet.
Romeo is easily loved and gives his love easily as Friar Laurence well knows and demonstrates with his descriptions of how anguished Romeo was just a few days ago over Rosaline. Even with this knowledge, Friar Laurence allows Romeo to persuade him into hastily marrying Romeo and Juliet. Friar Laurence tells Romeo, “Holy Saint Francis, what a change is here!/Is Rosaline, whom thou didst love so dear,/ So soon forsaken?...”, he is stating his amazement over how quickly Romeo’s love has changed from one girl to another (2.3.69-71). Friar Laurence realizes, “Young men’s love then lies/Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes” (220.127.116.11, young men like Romeo love first what they see, the girl’s face, and not what is inside in their hearts and minds. Even with this realization, the Friar does not prevent Romeo and Juliet from marrying after just a few meetings in which not many words were exchanged.
Friar Laurence uses imagery, slanted rhyme and inverted word order to acknowledge bad can come from good but also that good things can become twisted into bad, yet he chooses to help Romeo and Juliet in the hope that their love will heal the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues, however, their love only leads to their own deaths. He says in the quote, “Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied”, good intentions can become wicked when misused (2.3.21). This quote is foreshadowing that though Friar Laurence marries Romeo and Juliet together with good intentions, this union will ultimately cause their deaths. Friar Laurence also says, “And vice sometime by action dignified”, which he says to state his hope that perhaps the feud between the two families will be ended by this illegal marriage (2.3.22).
Friar Laurence cautions Romeo and Juliet multiple times against moving too quickly in their relationship using metaphors. He compares their love to fire and powder, “These violent delights have violent ends/And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,/Which, as they kiss, consume…”, an all-consuming love that will quickly end them both (2.6.9-11). The Friar cautions them, “…The sweetest honey/Is loathsome in his own deliciousness/And in the taste confounds the appetite”, saying their love may be sweet and satisfying now, however, when they love too much, it destroys the appetite, or in this case, their lives (2.6.11-13).
While Friar Laurence may have cautioned Romeo and Juliet, he did not take responsibility and refuse to marry them because of their hasty and impulsive love, which, if he had, may have prevented their tragic deaths. While Friar Laurence wanted the feud to end with good intentions, these good intentions do not prevent the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. If Friar Laurence had chosen not to marry them and used his figurative language instead to describe in more depth what would have happened because Romeo and Juliet loved too much too quickly, perhaps this would have encouraged the young lovers to love more moderately and realize that the Friar was cautioning against their own, self-inflicted deaths.