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In Shakespeare’s tragic play, Romeo and Juliet, Friar Laurence is a key player. He is the Catholic priest who resides over the people of Verona, Italy–namely the feuding Montague and Capulet families. At the beginning of the play, he is content at his abbey picking flowers and welcoming the morning. Suddenly, he is embroiled in the love conflict of Juliet and her Romeo. Friar Laurence is a man with motivations and actions that detail his complex personality.
Friar Laurence has a mix of internal and external motivations to help his parishioners. He is internally motivated to do his job well. His job is not easy because Verona has two feuding families, and the friar hopes to end that feud. Romeo is a Montague and Juliet is a Capulet. The friar hopes their love will help end the feud. He is also externally motivated to protect Juliet from harm. Because she is denied marriage to Romeo, she runs to the friar and threatens suicide. His external motivation to help her leads to his plan: “Hold, daughter. I do spy a kind of hope…A thing like death to chide away this shame…And, if thou darest, I’ll give thee remedy.”
Friar Laurence has a personality that is understanding, determined, yet irresponsible. He is the religious influence on these young lovers, and he chooses to understand their plight. He offers Juliet a way to look dead with a potion so that she can be with Romeo. The scariest detail of the plan is that she will be locked in a burial vault. He understands her fears and tries to lessen them. Unfortunately, his understanding nature leads him to be irresponsible. In his adult and religious role in these teenagers’ lives, he should have counseled them better. He marries them in secret and encourages Romeo to visit Juliet’s chamber in the night. He states: “Go get thee to thy love, as was decreed, ascend her chamber, hence and comfort her.” His plans for Juliet’s fake death go awry and Friar Laurence shows his determination to set things right. He rushes to the burial vault on horseback with cape a-flying, crowbar in hand with a single intent to rescue Juliet.
This holy man has acted in ways he probably regrets. Friar Laurence was internally motivated to do his job and that meant ending the conflict between the Montagues and Capulets. To achieve this goal, he secretly married the two young lovers. Not surprisingly, this secret marriage causes problems and he worsens the problem with the “death” potion. Through personality traits, motivations, and actions, Shakespeare has created an interesting and complex character in Friar Laurence.

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