Martin White as Friar Laurence.
Image Source: Coronado Playhouse.
Milo O'Shea as Friar Laurence.
Image Source: Word of the Day.
Paul Giamatti as Friar Laurence.
Image Source: friar for president.
At the very end of the balcony scene, Romeo says, "Hence will I to my ghostly father's cell, / His help to crave, and my dear hap to tell" (2.2.188-189). His "ghostly (spiritual) father" is Friar Laurence. [Scene Summary]
In his first appearance, Friar Laurence sets the scene for us: "The grey-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night, / Chequering the eastern clouds with streaks of light, / And fleckled [dappled] darkness like a drunkard reels / From forth day's path and Titan's fiery wheels" (2.3.1-4). He then meditates on the nature of good and evil. When Romeo appears, Friar Laurence spends a lot of time teasing the young man about Rosalind and his fickleness, then agrees to perform the wedding between Romeo and Juliet. [Scene Summary]
The Nurse, just back from talking with Romeo, asks Juliet if she has permission to go to confession that afternoon. Juliet says she has, and the Nurse delivers the joyful news: "Then hie [hurry] you hence to Friar Laurence' cell; / There stays [waits] a husband to make you a wife" (2.5.68-69). Apparently Juliet already knows who Friar Laurence is and where to find his cell. [Scene Summary]
Friar Laurence and Romeo are waiting for Juliet, so the wedding can be performed. Friar Laurence, hoping everything will turn out well, says "So smile the heavens upon this holy act, / That after hours with sorrow chide us not!" (2.6.1-2). He tries to advise Romeo to "love moderately" (2.6.14), but Romeo doesn't seem to be listening. When Juliet arrives Friar Laurence leads the young couple away to be married. [Scene Summary]
After killing Tybalt, Romeo hides in Friar Laurence's cell, and the Friar comes home to tell Romeo his fate. Apparently Romeo is concealed somewhere in the cell, so the Friar has to call him out: "Romeo, come forth; come forth, thou fearful [frightened] man: / Affliction is enamour'd of thy parts, / And thou art wedded to calamity" (3.3.1-3). A person's "parts" are his qualities, such as honor, courage, etc.; the Friar is expressing sympathy for poor Romeo because he seems to be married to bad luck. However, the Friar's sympathy soon turns to impatience when it turns out that Romeo thinks banishment worse than death. The Friar tries and tries to talk some sense into Romeo, but Romeo refuses to listen until the Friar advises him to spend the night with Juliet and then go to Mantua. The Friar also takes on the responsibility of solving the rest of Romeo's problems; he tells Romeo to stay in Mantua "till we can find a time / To blaze [make known] your marriage, reconcile your friends, / Beg pardon of the prince, and call thee back" (3.3.150-152). (Perhaps the Nurse is the other person indicated by "we," though it's hard to see how she would be of much help.) [Scene Summary]
Capulet threatens to throw Juliet out of the house if she won't marry Paris; Juliet's mother refuses to talk to her, and the Nurse advises her to marry Paris, even though she's already married to Romeo. Cornered, Juliet lies. She thanks the Nurse for her good advice, and asks her to go tell Juliet's mother that "I am gone, / Having displeased my father, to Laurence' cell, / To make confession and to be absolved" (3.5.233). This implies that Juliet has changed her mind about marrying Paris, so the Nurse is pleased with Juliet and hurries away to deliver the message. When the Nurse is gone, Juliet says, "I'll to the friar, to know his remedy; / If all else fail, myself have power to die" (3.5.241-242) . She trusts Friar Laurence, but she also trusts herself; if he can't help her, she has the strength to kill herself. [Scene Summary]
When Paris informs Friar Laurence that he wants him to perform the marriage ceremony between himself and Juliet, the Friar tries to raise objections. The first thing we hear him say is "On Thursday, sir? the time is very short" (4.1.1). However, Paris has answers for all of the Friar's objections.
A little later, Juliet comes to the Friar for his help in putting a stop to the wedding. She is desperate, and as soon as she is alone with the Friar she cries out, "O shut the door! and when thou hast done so, / Come weep with me; past hope, past cure, past help!" (4.1.44-45). Juliet says she will kill herself rather than marry Paris, which gives the Friar the inspiration for his plan for her to take the sleeping potion. He reasons that if she has enough courage to kill herself she has enough courage to take the drug which will make her appear dead for 42 hours. The Friar then proceeds to formulate all the details of his plan, and Juliet agrees to it. [Scene Summary]
Preparing to take the sleeping potion that Friar Laurence has given her, Juliet is plagued with second thoughts and fears. She asks herself if it's possible that the vial actually contains poison which the Friar has given to kill her, "Lest in this marriage he should be dishonour'd, / Because he married me before to Romeo?" (4.3.26-27). She quickly answers that question by reminding herself that Friar Laurence "hath still been tried a holy man" (4.3.29), and "has often had his holiness tried [tested] and found true." [Scene Summary]
On the morning Juliet is supposed to marry Paris, she is discovered dead. (We know she is not.) The Nurse cries out, Lady Capulet comes and pleads with Juliet to return to life, Capulet chokes up with grief, and then Friar Laurence, acting as though he has no idea of what has happened, says, "Come, is the bride ready to go to church?" (4.5.33). Everyone goes wild with grief until Friar Laurence firmly reminds them of the truth which their faith should teach them: "Peace, ho, for shame! confusion's cure lives not / In these confusions. Heaven and yourself / Had part in this fair maid; now heaven hath all, / And all the better is it for the maid" (4.5.65-68). Friar Laurence uses the word "confusion" to mean both "calamity" and "senseless outcries"; he's telling them that, in the face of this calamity, weeping and wailing won't do any good. They need to remember that Juliet is now in heaven, which is a better place for her. The Friar goes on in the same vein for a while, then tells the rest to "Dry up your tears, and stick your rosemary / On this fair corse; and, as the custom is, / In all her best array bear her to church" (4.5.79-81). They do as they're told and the Friar ushers everyone away, telling them that Juliet's death is their punishment for some sin, and that they must now obey the will of the heavens. Thus the Friar successfully completes the first part of his plan; Juliet appears to be dead and she will be taken to her grave in her best clothes. [Scene Summary]
Balthasar comes to Mantua to deliver the news of Juliet's death. As soon as Romeo sees Balthasar, he says, "How now, Balthasar! / Dost thou not bring me letters from the friar?" (5.1.12-13). He is expecting some joyful news about Juliet, but Balthasar tells him that she is dead. Romeo instantly decides to join Juliet in death, and sends Balthasar away to hire horses, though not without asking "Hast thou no letters to me from the friar?" (5.1.31). Balthasar says there aren't. As a matter of fact there is a letter from the Friar, one which could save Romeo's life, but Balthasar doesn't have it and knows nothing of it; in the next scene we'll learn what happened to the letter. [Scene Summary]
At the door of Friar Laurence's cell, Friar John calls, "Holy Franciscan friar! brother, ho!" (5.2.1). Friar Laurence comes out, expecting a letter from Romeo, but Friar John explains to Friar Laurence that he was unable to deliver Friar Laurence's letter to Romeo. Friar Laurence sends Friar John to get a crowbar and makes plans to be there when Juliet awakes, write again to Romeo in Mantua, and hide Juliet in his cell until Romeo arrives. [Scene Summary]
A moment after Romeo dies, Friar Laurence appears in the churchyard, saying "Saint Francis be my speed! how oft to-night / Have my old feet stumbled at graves!" (5.3.121-122). "Saint Francis be my speed" means "May Saint Francis help me," but the use of the word "speed" also emphasizes the dramatic impact of the moment. If Friar Laurence had been just a little more speedy, if his feet hadn't stumbled on graves, he would have been there before Romeo took the poison. The Friar is also too late to save Juliet, who is coming awake just as he enters the tomb. He tries to persuade Juliet to let him take her to refuge among a sisterhood of nuns, but she refuses to leave Romeo. The Friar is frightened away by the noise of the approaching watch, and Juliet commits suicide.
A little later Prince Escalus commands Friar Laurence to tell all he knows about the tragedy. The Friar gives an honest account, at the end of which he says, "if aught in this / Miscarried by my fault, let my old life / Be sacrificed, some hour before his time [i.e., the natural end of his life] / Unto the rigour of severest law" (5.3.266-269). The Prince, however, doesn't even consider the possibility that the Friar was at fault. He says, We still [always] have known thee for a holy man" (5.3.270), and then asks Balthasar what he knows. [Scene Summary]