Comparison of the Nurse and Friar Lawrence from Romeo and Juliet

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A comparison of both the Nurse and Friar Lawrence from Shakespeare's classic, Romeo and Juliet, in their roles as advice givers to both of the main characters.

Teenagers have always looked for advice from their friends, about everything from relationships to family troubles. At this critical time in their lives, teenagers look for advice from more experienced, older friends. The same is true for teenagers hundreds of years ago. In Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, we see how both Romeo and Juliet seek advice from older, more experience confidants, in the form of Friar Lawrence for Romeo and the Nurse for Juliet. While Friar Lawrence and the Nurse do their very best to aid the young lovers, neither can save them from their fate. However, the Friar gives better advice to the two lovers because he has their best interest as a couple in mind and tries to always come up with a compromise, while the Nurse only moves messages between the lovers and does not have faith in Romeo. Additionally, Friar Lawrence gives better advice because he is a neutral character in the conflict between the Montague and Capulet families, and can give advice without bias. The Nurse is employed by the Capulets, and tells Juliet to marry Paris, because such a union would benefit the Capulets greatly and remove the domestic feud that develops between Lord Capulet and Juliet when Juliet refuses to marry Paris. Additionally, the Nurse is unable to give proper advice to Juliet because she is worried that she will be reprimanded for her role in the lovers’ relationship. These two arguments prove that Friar Lawrence gave better advice to Romeo and Juliet than the Nurse did.

Friar Lawrence gave better advice to Romeo and Juliet than the Nurse because he was a neutral figure in the conflict between Montague and Capulet. The Nurse treats Juliet as her daughter, because the Nurse has raised her as if she was Juliet’s mother, and wants what is best for her. Friar Lawrence is the patriarch of the church in Verona, and is not tied to any family. His reputation is that for being good and true in his intentions, as shown by the Prince after the Friar’s monologue at the end of the play: “We still have known thee for a holy man” (5.3.270). On the other hand, the Nurse’s advice is biased because she only wants what is best for Juliet and the Capulet household. During 3.5, Lord and Lady Capulet declare to Juliet that on Thursday she is to marry the County Paris, a union Juliet tries to decline. Her father flies into a rage, and threatens to disown Juliet if she does not marry Paris, and Juliet’s mother has no words to comfort Juliet with. When Juliet turns to the Nurse for solace, the Nurse tells her that “I think it best that you marry the County / O, he’s a lovely gentleman! / Romeo’s a dishclout to him” (3.5.219-221) because she loves Juliet like her own daughter, and also because the Nurse realizes that she could be punished for her role in allowing Romeo and Juliet to be together. Juliet sees this as a betrayal, because while in 2.5 the Nurse commends Romeo for his handsomeness, she now says that Paris is a much better match for Juliet because she knows that it will benefit Juliet and the Capulets the most. Because of this, Juliet goes to the Friar the next day to seek his advice on the matter, because she knows that he will give her advice unfettered from bias. The Friar tells Juliet to take a sleeping potion that will make her look as if she was dead, allowing her to be buried in the Capulet crypt and then spirited away with Romeo. This advice is much better than the Nurse’s, because the Friar wants to see Romeo and Juliet together and protect them from the Capulets and Montagues. For these reasons, the Friar’s objectivity makes him a much better confidant

The Friar gave Romeo and Juliet much better advice than the Nurse did because he always sought to find a compromise to the young lovers’ often rash first reactions to situations, while the Nurse simply carried notes between the two lovers and tried to persuade Juliet to do something she did not want to do. When Romeo was banished for the murder of Tybalt, it was the Friar who told him:

Go get thee to thy love, as was decreed,

Ascend her chamber, hence and comfort her.

But look thou stay not till the watch be set,

For then thou canst not pass to Mantua,

Where thou shalt live till we can find a time

To blaze your marriage, reconcile your friends,

Beg pardon of the Prince, and call thee back (3.3.146-52)

This quote shows how the Friar comes up with a solution to Romeo’s problems, as Romeo was in the throes of woe, lying on the floor and agonizing about how he is as good as dead if he is banished and cannot be with Juliet. The Friar is simply looking for a way to show Romeo that it is in fact a blessing to be banished, and that he must make the most out of the situation so that he can be with Juliet again. Alternatively, the Nurse does not give Romeo any advice during the entire play, and only advises Juliet to marry Paris and betray Romeo in 3.5. Instead, she mainly passes notes between the lovers, as seen when Romeo takes refuge in Friar Lawrence’s cell after he murders Tybalt, where she says “Here, sir, a ring she bid me give you, sir. / Hie you, make haste, for it grows very late.” (3.3.163-64) Wherein she gives Romeo a ring from Juliet, and tells him to hurry to her chambers, because there is not much time left before he must leave for Mantua. She never advises him on a course of action, or tells him how to enter Juliet’s room, and instead lets him figure out his problems himself. These points prove that the Friar gives better advice to the star crossed couple than the Nurse did, because the Friar provides directions and details in his advice, while the Nurse simply acts as a go between and does not make suggestions to accomplish goals.

In conclusion, the Friar gives better advice to Romeo and Juliet than the Nurse does, because he is a neutral character in the feud that grips their respective families, and because he always tries to find a compromise that would allow the young lovers to stay together. The Nurse, on the other hand, is biased in her advice to Juliet because she treats Juliet as her daughter, and wishes to remove the conflict between Juliet and her parents, in the best interests of Juliet. However, the Nurse does not consider Romeo a very worthy man for Juliet, saying “I anger her sometimes, and tell her that Paris is the properer man; / but I’ll warrant you, when I say so, she looks as pale as any clout in the versal world.” (2.4.209-212) and as such does not put very much value in their relationship, which is shown when she tells Juliet that it would be best to marry Paris in 3.5. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a timeless work which resonates today because the theme of young lovers seeking advice from older mentors is universal.

1 comment

A. Smith
Posted on Jun 27, 2011