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Detailed Summary of Act 5, Scene 2
Enter Friar John:
Friar John explains to Friar Laurence why 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.
Enter Friar John:
This short scene begins with Friar John calling at the door of Friar Laurence's cell, "Holy Franciscan friar! brother, ho!" (5.2.1). Friar Laurence comes out and immediately asks about Romeo: "Welcome from Mantua! What says Romeo? / Or, if his mind be writ, give me his letter" (5.2.3-4). Since Friar Laurence sent Romeo a letter, he expects a letter in return, but he doesn't expect the news he receives: that his letter to Romeo has never even left Verona.
Friar John explains that he sought out another friar for company and found him in a house where he was visiting the sick, whereupon the health authorities, fearing there was pestilence in the house, confined both friars in the house so they wouldn't infect others. The authorities wouldn't even allow Friar John to use a messenger to send the letter back to Friar Laurence.
Friar Laurence exclaims, "Unhappy fortune!" (5.2.17). This is indeed the worst sort of bad luck, but Friar Laurence still has a plan. He sends Friar John for a crowbar and tells himself what he will do next. He will go to the tomb alone, write another letter to Romeo in Mantua, and keep Juliet hidden in his cell until Romeo arrives.
As he exits, Friar Laurence is feeling sorry for Juliet, "Poor living corse [corpse], closed in a dead man's tomb!" (5.2.30). What he doesn't know is that she will remain there forever, because his second letter will never reach Romeo, who is already on his way to Verona.