There is a reason why people often say they have “escaped into their favorite story” or “jumped into the pages” of a book. This is because the literary world is a place where writers express their thoughts, feelings, opinions, and imaginations so readers can discover them. Every piece of literature will exemplify different beliefs or opinions, but there are some things that stay the same–one of these is the respect for a mentor. In one of the most influential American novels, Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is the father to young Scout and Jem Finch, but he is also a teacher, a guide, and role model to his children. A mentor exemplifies leadership, righteousness, and a trustworthy presence, but the character of Friar Laurence is in stark contrast as he let two young children who looked up to him die by their own hands. William Shakespeare, in his tragic play Romeo and Juliet employs the character of Friar Laurence as the person responsible for Romeo and Juliet’s suicides in order to portray the detriments of an irresponsible and wrongly focused mentor.
Friar Laurence’s failed counseling is seen in his infatuation with the bigger picture, the larger impact, the greater significance. In this mindset, he fails to recognize the minute details and comparatively smaller consequences. When the excited Romeo arrives at Friar Laurence’s cell to ask the friar to marry him and Juliet, Friar Laurence disapproves, but later changes his mind. He shows no interest in the happiness of Romeo and Juliet; instead, he expresses his desire to end the feud between the Montague and Capulet families. The friar’s focus on the larger impact causes him to fail to see the impact of this marriage on Romeo and Juliet themselves.
The character of Friar Laurence also exemplifies the trait of irresponsibility. As a respected teacher of both Romeo and Juliet, the friar must understand his role as a mentor to both children and be able to teach them to make responsible decisions. However, Friar Laurence exemplifies the contrary when Juliet arrives at his cell, desperate. She is engrossed in her dilemma of avoiding marriage to two men; moreover, she is grieving the banishment of Romeo. Despite Juliet’s hysterical state, Friar Laurence asks Juliet how desperate she really is, and proceeds to give her an outrageous solution, after Juliet’s “approval.” It is absolutely ludicrous to ask Juliet, in her present condition, for such an opinion. The friar demonstrates reckless thinking and proceeds to give Juliet a potion that will send her into a death-like state for hours without even attempting to discuss or reason another solution with her.
Despite the trust Romeo and Juliet placed in him, Friar Laurence is to blame for the suicides of Romeo and Juliet. Through his irresponsible mindset and wrongly placed focus on the larger impact of Romeo and Juliet’s actions, Friar Laurence failed at his role as a mentor. Unlike Prince Escalus, a merciful leader who well carries his responsibilities, Friar Laurence neglected his responsibilities of demonstrating proper decision making and instead offered an outrageous solution to a young girl who was unable to collect herself at the time. Unlike Atticus Finch, who paid proper attention to how his actions would impact his children, Friar Laurence disregarded the consequences of his actions on Romeo and Juliet and was instead consumed by the idea of him being the one to restore peace in Verona. Compiled by the pen of William Shakespeare, Friar Laurence well portrays the horrible consequences of failed mentorship.
Romeo and Juliet is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.