In William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet he utilizes the sonnet form to tell the story of two star crossed lovers while challenging and defining different concepts of love. The manipulation of the sonnet highlights the deeper meanings hidden within the work by romanticizing his questioning of love. Shakespeare’s cast of characters personify various viewpoints and serve to present their perspectives to the audience. In act II scene III the character of Friar Lawrence challenges Romeo’s definition of love and where love lies in the heart of man. Lawrence later questions the honesty of Romeo’s form of love but chooses to abandon this thinking in favor of using the young couples love to mend their familial feud. Through Friar Lawrence is Shakespeare supporting the manipulation of love if it is for a worthy cause?
Act II scene III begins with Friar Lawrence contemplating the duality of nature and how the herbs and flowers he collects can be used to to medicate and to poison. He wraps his thoughts in imagery and philosophical contemplation. Romeo then enters the scene and Lawrence believes from his looks that he has not slept since the night before. Lawrence questions Romeo in fear that he has committed sin with Rosaline.
Romeo counters this by proclaiming his new found love for Juliet. He then makes his wish of having Lawrence consent to marry them the same day. Friar Lawrence is immediately taken aback by his loss of love towards Rosaline and newly found devotion to Juliet. He makes his thoughts on Romeo’s form of love, and the love of young men known stating “Is Rosaline, whom thou didst love so dear, So soon forsaken? young men’s love then lies Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes”(2.3.91-93). Romeo argues that unlike Rosaline, Juliet returns his love. Lawrence counters his defense stating that Rosaline could see Romeo’s love for her “did read by rote, that could not spell” (2.3.115). Lawrence agrees to marry the couple in hopes of the marriage ending the feud of the Montagues and Capulets.
Despite agreeing to marry the two Friar Lawrence makes it clear that he believes the love Romeo proclaims for Juliet is not a true love through polite opposition and word choice. After Lawrence concludes that “young men’s love lies Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes” (2.3.92,93) he further expresses his thoughts to Romeo by asking “And art tho changed? pronounce this sentence then.
Women may fall, when there’s no strength in men,” (2.3.104,105) meaning the love between the two is fragile and weak because it is based on Romeo’s version of love. Lawrece does not directly scold Romeo or tell him that his love for Juliet is false but states his opinions discreetly. He chooses to say “young men’s love” and not specifically Romeo’s form of love to make his opinions known but not offensive or accusatory. Lawrence phrases some of his responses to Romeo’s protest with questions, which makes his comments less argumentative and more discussion friendly.
Friar Lawrence understands that he will not sway Romeo in his assumptions of love but still states his opinion before seeing the possibilities that can arise from the situation. Since Romeo still does not understand the meaning behind Lawrence’s words, believing that he did not oppose him as much when he proclaimed his love for Rosaline. Lawrence corrects Romeo with his last remark on the issue “For doting, not for loving, pupil mine,” (2.3.107) meaning that Friar Lawrence did not even believe that Romeo’s prior love for Rosaline could be defined as true. Lawrence plays into Romeo’s whims of romance and confessions of love believing them to be flighty but makes sure to state his thoughts so Romeo can have well intended guidance.
Friar Lawrence does not believe Romeo’s prior love for Rosaline was true much less his new proclaimed love for Juliet but he with holds his judgement in favor of seeing possibility. Being aware of the feud between the two families Lawrence hopes that in joining Romeo and Juliet in marriage the bond of their commitment will end the familial feud. Lawrence makes this desire known to Romeo “For this alliance may so happy prove, to turn your households rancour to pure love” (2.3.118,119) but also is purposeful in his wording. He has already made it known that he does not believe that the love Romeo and Juliet share is true but simply that powered by a young man’s eyes, except he chooses to describe their love as a “pure love” further playing into Romeo’s romanization.
Shakespeare questions in this scene the purity of Romeo’s love for Juliet through Friar Lawrence, while also pushing the plot forward. From the first sonnet the audience knows that the love shared between the star crossed lovers will end their lives but also mend their family ties. It is in this act that the purity of their love is questioned and if the lust driven love they share can be considered love. Through Friar Lawrence it is concluded that although Romeo proclaims that what is shared between him and Juliet is love the truth of their love is very questionable. If the love shared between Romeo and Juliet is not considered a true love in the eyes of Friar Lawrence then using the connection between the two to mend their conflict is not a manipulation of love. It is instead a positive outcome and benefit that can arise from the situation, whether what Romeo and Juliet share is love in a pure form or not.