REVIEW
Evans, Bertrand. "The Brevity of Friar Laurence."
PMLA, 65(1950), 841-865. Revised as "Fate as Practiser: Romeo and Juliet" in Shakespeare's Tragic Practice. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1979. 22-51.

Thesis: Evans' general thesis is that Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy of "unawareness." According to Evans, the lovers are destroyed because various characters are unaware of crucial facts. (For example, when Romeo and Juliet fall in love they are unaware that they belong to enemy houses, and when Tybalt challenges Romeo he is unaware that Romeo has just married his cousin.) Thus the tragedy is the result of a series of cruel accidents.

Note: The title of Evans' essay is a kind of little joke. Other critics have said that Friar Laurence's last speech is too long, but Evans says that it is brief. Those other critics object to the speech because it says what we already know about the events leading up to the deaths of Romeo and Juliet; Evans' point is that although we already know all that Friar Laurence says, the characters on stage don't. Furthermore, Evans says, even Friar Laurence doesn't know everything; for instance, he doesn't know that Balthasar told Romeo that Juliet was dead. Therefore the Friar's speech is "brief" in the sense that -- even though it is long -- it doesn't contain everything that the other characters need in order to clear up their "unawareness."

Bottom Line: The general idea is persuasive, but the essay is wordy and repetitive.


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   Author: Philip Weller
   Last Modified: 2 April 2002