The following sample essay on Romeo And Juliet Coursework discusses it in detail, offering basic facts and pros and cons associated with it. To read the essay’s introduction, body and conclusion, scroll down.
Compare and contrast the roles of the nurse and Friar Lawrence in William Shakespeare’s – Romeo and Juliet in the following ways
1. Consider their contribution to the plot
a. Select short sections from the play involving these two characters for close study, showing an appreciation of dramatic structure and stagecraft.
b. Analyse what they tell us about Elizabethan society
Shakespeare’s’ principle source for the plot for Romeo and Juliet was ‘The Tragicall HIstorye of Romeus and Juliet (1562) a long narrative poem by the English poet Arthur Broke. The story of the two star-crossed lovers, and their feuding families, the Montagues’ and Capulets’, proved rich material for Shakespeare. Yet he had to lift this story from the page and into the theatre. The Nurse and Friar Lawrence share in the task or weaving together a large number of related impression and judgements.
The Nurse supplies a good deal of information concerning Juliet’s past. The nurse recalls Juliet’s birth on the 31st July almost 14 yrs ago. She describes her beauty: ‘thou wast the prettiest babe that e’er I nursed’ and she raises the issue of marriage: ‘and I might live to see thee married once’ so setting the scene for this young beauty to fall in love and marry.
The Nurse is used as a vehicle to engineer the plot.
Juliet sends the nurse to Romeo to arrange a time and place where they can be married. The Nurse becomes a messenger between the two lovers.
Romeo: Bid her devise
Some means to come to shrift this afternoon
be shrived and married.
She heightens the sense of plotting and clandestine love by agreeing with Romeo to arrange that a rope ladder be hidden at the Capulet’s house for Romeo to enter Juliet’s bedchamber on their wedding night. Later the nurse stops Romeo from stabbing him self and arranges that Romeo will spend the night with Juliet before departing for Mantua.
The nurse offers us a numbers of contrasts with other characters. Her outlook on life and love is relatively shallow. If a man should come a long offering marriage then it is sensible to take him up on his offer as he is rich and of good standing. Contrast that with the two lovers, who, through out the play, entreat each other, hold on desperately to their union despite the life long feud between their families and the killing of Tybalt. Contrast the Nurses sexual bantering with the chase moments of passion in the lover’s bedchamber.
These contrasts demonstrate the nurse’s position in society. She is servant status, short on intellect, with a course and vulgar sense or humour. She truly does not understand why Juliet cannot turn her affections to Paris in a moment; nor understand what deep waters she is wading in when she helps Juliet in her marriage subterfuge. It is just some childlike diversion.
And yet she is a loving and faithful confidante to the young inexperienced Juliet. It is the nurse who fed Juliet, weaned her and looked after her on her parent’s absences. And we see Juliet returns her love, trusts and confides her love of Romeo to her.
In contrast to the lowly and vulgar Nurse, Friar Lawrence is a holy man. He would assume a different social status, and lend the play an austere, weighty, spiritual edge. He is to Romeo, what the Nurse is to Juliet, a confidante. Instead of the simple servant wisdom of hers, he has the educated view. At some points in the play he deals with both the lovers and helps them with there on going problems caused by the conflicting families.
But for all the Friar’s education, the audience cannot help but feel he is rash at times. He rushes to wed this very immature young couple. Does he not, for one moment, ponder over the consequences of marrying two people from such diverse families? Under his management, things go from bad to worse. The audience believe him to be capable of marrying Paris and Juliet together, essentially a bigamous marriage. But instead he gives Juliet a sleeping draft. With the Friar’s sleeping potion, she easily convinces everyone around her that she is dead. On the strength of this, a funeral is arranged. Instead of orchestrating the couples’ ultimate happiness, the subterfuge leads to Romeo taking his own life. On finding the grieving Juliet, the Friar should have placated her and turned her from suicide, but with cowardice he makes his escape. Should a man of his standing be capable of such sabotage? And yet we believe his motives to be pure if not misguided. He is seen to be Romeo’s honest and trustworthy friend.
We do see the Friar in parts of the play be the restraining voice of sense and prudence. It is he who, minutes before he marries Romeo and Juliet, issues a warning on the dangers of hasty love:
‘These violent delights love violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder.’
It is he who rails against Romeo for contemplating suicide after killing Tybalt:
‘By my holy order,
I thought thy disposition better tempered.’
And when he realises that Romeo is responsible for Tybalt’s death, he does not appear judgemental, but rather in his mentor’s role, tries to move the discussion on to problem solving. The Friar’s restraining voice of sense and prudence contrasts with Romeo who is portrayed as young and impetuous.
Like the Nurse, the Friar is extremely instrumental in advancing the play. It is he who marries the two lovers, he orchestrates the drugging of Juliet in order that she avoids the union between she and Paris, and it is he who fails to get news of this plot to the banished Romeo. At times we are unsure of his motives. Does he drug Juliet with the intension of killing her? Juliet wonders: ‘What if the poison which the Friar subtly hath ministered to have me dead?’
In the end, the Friar’s collusion in the whole matter of Romeo and Juliet’s relationship that is the main causes of the ultimate double suicide. He final punishment was the knowledge that he had been responsible for the tragedy.
Throughout his career, Shakespeare was intrigued by the relationship between words and truth. Often in his plays we find elaborate and involved language associated with hypocrisy and deceit, plain speaking with honesty and truthfulness. The play itself cannot be truly felt if it is not told in words which themselves affect us. The style, the language, the images, and the verse, in which Romeo and Juliet are told, together increase their impact on us.
The language Shakespeare uses continually reflects what is happening in the play. When servants are speaking, the words are simple and direct, often as with the nurse they are course or bawdy. In contrast the Friar uses many words referring to nature and religion; he talks of flowers, honey, roses and ashes and swears by Jesus and Mary. The Friar in describing Juliet’s drugged moribund state:
‘No warmth, no breath, shall testify thou livest;
The roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade
To waned ashes; thy eyes’ windows fall,’
When Romeo comes to tell the Friar of his new love for Juliet, the Friar loses patience with Romeo’s elaborate metaphorical language, ‘Be plain good son, and homely in thy drift. Riddling confession finds but riddling shrift’
When the Nurse believes Juliet to be dead she says:
O woe! O woeful, woeful, woeful day!
Most lamentable day, most woeful day,
That ever, ever, I did yet behold!’ reflecting the grief that is felt by the audience. The tragedy is magnified by the bathos of the language.
So succinct is Shakespeare in his prose that he is able to give the audience an all- encompassing summary of the plot in his opening lines.
‘Two households both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona where we lay our scene,….’
We immediately are able to place the play, its high moral tone, its austerity and magnitude of tale. We are given a glimpse of Elizabethan life: affluent families with their own historic grudges. The prologue speaks of enduring love and conflict, of hate and untimely death and the futileness of love in the face of all that hatred. A historic documentary of monumental proportions, but which is told in such style and imagery that it stands the test of time.