Romeo and Juliet is one of the most famous love stories of all time. The tragic story of these star-crossed lovers has been told and retold countless times, in many different ways. But one thing that remains constant throughout all the versions of the story is that Romeo and Juliet ultimately meet their demise because of the feud between their respective families, the Montagues and the Capulets.
While Romeo and Juliet are the central characters of the story, there are other supporting characters who also play an important role in the tragedy. Among these are Friar Lawrence, Nurse, and Mercutio. While each of these characters plays a different role in Romeo and Juliet’s lives, they all share one common trait: they are ultimately punished for their involvement in the lovers’ deaths.
Friar Lawrence is a kind and well-meaning man who only wants what’s best for Romeo and Juliet. However, his good intentions ultimately lead to the couple’s downfall.
And when Romeo is banished for killing Tybalt, it is Friar Lawrence’s plan to reunite the lovers that leads to Juliet’s tragic death. As a result of his actions, Friar Lawrence is forced to live the rest of his life knowing that he played a part in the deaths of two young people who were deeply in love.
Mercutio is another character whose death can be indirectly blamed on Friar Lawrence. A close friend of Romeo’s, Mercutio is killed by Tybalt in a duel. Romeo, in turn, kills Tybalt in revenge. If Friar Lawrence had not married Romeo and Juliet in secret, none of this would have happened. Mercutio would not have been killed, and Romeo would not have been banished. While Mercutio’s death is not directly caused by Friar Lawrence, it is still indirectly linked to him.
The Nurse is another character who suffers because of her involvement in Romeo and Juliet’s relationship. She is the one who brings Juliet the news that Romeo has been banished. This causes Juliet great pain, and she eventually takes her own life. The Nurse feels guilty for her part in Juliet’s death, and she is forced to live the rest of her life knowing that she played a role in the tragedy.
While Romeo and Juliet are the central characters of the story, it is important to remember that they are not the only ones who suffer because of their tragic love story. The supporting characters also play an important role in the tragedy, and they too are punished for their involvement in the couple’s deaths.
The tragic story of Juliet and her Romeo came to a conclusion with numerous fatalities, some of which could have been avoided if not for the mistakes made by characters in the play. Prince Escalus says, “Some will be forgiven and others punished” as a result of the murders committed by Romeo and Juliet. (V.iii.319) Those who acted the most significant role in the suicides should be punished, while those who deserve absolution should be pardoned.
Romeo’s banishment served as the direct catalyst for Juliet’s suicide, and thus Romeo must shoulder a great deal of the blame. Escalus says of Romeo, “his fault concludes but what the law should end, / The life of Tybalt” (V.iii.320-321). While Romeo did not physically kill Tybalt, his impulsive act of killing Tybalt led to the events that culminated in Juliet’s suicide. If Romeo had simply allowed himself to be fined or imprisoned for his offense, he would have been able to stay in Verona and Juliet would not have killed herself.
Juliet also deserves some of the blame for her own death. After Romeo is banished, Juliet pleads with her father to let her marry Romeo in secret so that he will not be forced to leave Verona. However, Juliet’s father rejects this idea, saying “I think it best / You married with the County” (III.v.155-156). If Juliet had just agreed to marry Paris, as her father wanted, she would have been able to stay in Verona and there would have been no need for her to fake her own death.
While Romeo and Juliet are primarily responsible for their own deaths, Friar Lawrence also played a part in their suicides. He came up with the plan for Juliet to take a potion that would make everyone believe she was dead and then Romeo would come and rescue her from the tomb. However, Friar Lawrence’s plan went awry when he was unable to get a message to Romeo informing him of the plan. As a result, Romeo believed Juliet was truly dead and killed himself. While Friar Lawrence did not intend for anyone to die, his actions led directly to Romeo’s death.
Despite their role in the suicides of Romeo and Juliet, all of these characters are pardoned by Prince Escalus. He says, “we do pardon thee / For thou hast laid thy life between the jaws of death” (V.iii.322-323). In other words, because they have all experienced great loss and pain, they are forgiven. In the end, everyone involved in the Romeo and Juliet tragedy is both punished and pardoned.
Throughout the narrative of Romeo and Juliet, their closest friend is used to keep their almost blasphemous relationship a secret. The supposedly upright Friar Lawrence deserves a harsh penalty, such as death, for his mistakes. From the start, Romeo went to the friar for direction. In Act II, Scene iii, when Romeo encounters the friar for the first time in the play (line 62), he entrusts him with his secret love for “the fair daughter of wealthy Capulet” (lines 63-64).
The friar naively believes that the marriage will “turn your households’ rancor to pure love” (line 104). The Friar should have known better than to believe Romeo. A man who so easily falls in and out of love is not capable of sustaining a long-term relationship, let alone one built on secrecy and defiance.
The Friar also has a hand in hastening Juliet’s impulsive decisions. In Act IV, Scene I, the Friar gives Juliet a potion that will make her appear dead for “two and forty hours” (line 21). He tells her that during this time, Romeo will escape to Mantua. After she “awakes” from the “trance”, they will be together again. The Friar should have known that this was a bad idea. A potion that makes someone appear dead is a dangerous thing, and there is always the possibility that something could go wrong.
And of course, something does go wrong. Romeo believes Juliet is truly dead and kills himself. When Juliet awakens to find Romeo’s corpse beside her, she takes her own life. The Friar’s hasty decisions led to the death of the two young lovers. If he had been more patient and thoughtful, Romeo and Juliet might have had a chance at a happy ending.
Because of the Friar’s recklessness, he deserves to be punished. He should have known better than to marry two young people who were so impulsive and headstrong. He should have been more careful with the potion he gave Juliet. And most importantly, he should have thought about the consequences of his actions before rushing into them. The Friar’s lack of foresight led to the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet. For this, he must be held accountable.