The Meaning of a Confused Old Man’s Words
Shakespeare’s most famous love story explores the ideas of contrasts and dualities, both in concepts and characters. Through this ill-fated love story, the audience learns that humans are composed of many opposing ideas and feelings specifically. Opening a love story with a lighthearted discussion of rape is an odd contrast that sets the tone and standard for a multitude of contrasts to come. The notion of joking about the topic of rape is the first of a multitude of contrasts and tensions throughout Shakespeare’s most famous love tale. These disparities are conveyed by Friar Lawrence, when the audience first meets him as he picks herbs in his garden just before the break of dawn (II.iii.1-31), ranting about philosophical values and beliefs. His soliloquy strongly suggests deep-tooted issues regarding the family feud between the Montagues and the Capulets, as well as the impending doom of the unfortunate love between Romeo and Juliet. Similarly, Friar Lawrence metaphorically discusses these issues when he picks and philosophizes about the poisonous weeds and medicinal flowers that he pulls from the earth. He conveys that there is good and evil in all natural beings, just like as in the herbs he plucks. Furthermore, Friar Lawrence establishes that good and evil exist simultaneously in nature, but also that good can become evil and visa versa. Through Friar Lawrence’s soliloquy, we appreciate the complexities of nature and human nature, and we understand to reconcile life’s many contradictions, both familial and romantic. Without explicitly mentioning names, in his long-winded speech, Friar Lawrence hints at the family feud between the two richest families in Verona, Capulets and Montagues through metaphors. Friar Lawrence says there’s “naught so vile” a plant “on the Earth doth live” is so bad that it does not “special good doth give” (II.iii.17-18). This is more of a lesson that should be taught to households; the...
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