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Catalog of the Shakespeare Art Collection  --  Watercolors of Shakespearean Characters 
~ Bastards, Frauds & Tellers of the Truth  ~


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FRIAR LAURENCE in ROMEO & JULIET
by Hannah Tompkins
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Friar Laurence Watercolor by Hannah Tompkins

 

Perhaps it's a little unfair to come down so hard on the Friar, for he probably meant well, in his own bumbling way, but the road to Hell was paved with good intentions.
Being a human being, albeit a holy one, he has, like the rest of us, his share of frailties and is equally entitled to some indulgence. It is not the weaknesses that invite criticism but his complete ignorance of them. He assumes more credit than is due him and it is this self-deception that throws him off the deep end.

Like Polonius, he loves to hear himself talk. His first speech in Act II sc.iii is some 30 lines long! Half way through it he says:
"For nought so vile that on the earth doth live,
But to the earth some special good doth give;
Nor aught so good, but strained from that fair use,
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse."
He is talking in pious abstracts without realizing that it applies to him, for he too "stumbles on abuse" where his 'virtue turns to vice' in an important crisis.
He cautions Romeo to go "Wisely and slowly; they stumble that run fast", and later he preaches "too swift arrives as tardy as too slow"-He's a real walking almanac, full of 'wise' sayings, and long-winded about it too.

After the fatal fracas in which Romeo kills Juliet's cousin Tybalt, he rushes to the Friar's cell for sanctuary and consolation. The Friar obliges with a speech of some 50 lines, to make his point to an hysterical boy in traumatic shock! He starts with:
"Hold thy desperate hand:
Art thou a man?..."
He's a fine one to talk! How come he didn't go straight to the feuding families once he had married Romeo & Juliet, instead of the coward's way out with the insane sleeping potion ploy? (Such a course, naturally, would have finished the plot as a good drama but the question does validate my opinion that he is a fraud.)

He talks up a storm about virtue, faith, courage and all such good things, believing himself to be a shining example, but when it comes to a show-down in the tombs, to save Juliet, he is scared by the approaching watch and runs like a chicken, deserting Juliet in a life and death urgency.

But that's not all: He deals in drugs which is unlawful; he urges Juliet to lie to her parents( to accommodate the secret marriage); he himself lies to them, confirming her death when he knows she's only drugged; he remains conspicuously silent when Paris comes to him to arrange his marriage to Juliet, and to top it off his answer to Juliet when she pleads "..out of thy long-experienced time, Give me some present counsel;" is "..be merry, give consent to marry Paris.." and gives her the potion as a solution.

For all his ghostly holiness, he's still a fraud.


Copyright © 1982 Hannah Tompkins. All rights reserved.

 

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