Romeo and Juliet | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Act 2, Scene 3

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides in-depth summary and analysis of Act 2, Scene 3 of William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet | Act 2, Scene 3 | Summary



Now it's the very early morning; Friar Lawrence opens the scene, collecting flowers in a basket, thinking about the power of nature. Romeo enters to hear the friar considering one herb in particular that can be both medicinal and poisonous. Romeo tells Friar Lawrence where he was the night before and explains his and Juliet's intentions to marry. The friar reacts with both amusement and dismay at Romeo's transfer of his affections from Rosaline. However, he then agrees that, as their alliance may be so happy it could end the families' feud, he will assist the couple in their plans.


Critics have made much of the herb Friar Lawrence describes, whose value comes from context—that is, from the intentions of the user—as well as the intended outcomes, either medicinal or poisonous. This can partly explain the use the friar concocts for the herb later in the play. Friar Lawrence's description of the plant reveals a core message about good and evil in the play when he says virtue and vice are like two opposing kings "in man as well as herbs." This juxtaposition of good and evil plays out in Romeo and Juliet's situation: As they seek marriage, they also encounter death. Their ending shows how hate triumphs over love in their community.

Instead of giving wise counsel, the friar decides to accommodate Romeo and Juliet's desire to wed. As a holy man, he has good intentions—to stop hatred between the Capulets and Montagues—but his good intentions are twisted into bad outcomes by the darkness in the play's other characters. Also, Friar Lawrence's good intentions lead him to abuse his authority as a friend and spiritual guide. He points Romeo and Juliet in the direction of defying their parents, a sin and breach of custom for the time. The friar himself is like the plant that is more poisonous than medicinal.

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