Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Act II, Scene 3

Summary

Friar Laurence enters, carrying a basket and expounding on the nature of the local herbs he is gathering. He explains that none of the plants are entirely poisonous or entirely curative; rather, their effect on illness depends on how they are prepared and applied.

As Friar Laurence ends this speech, Romeo enters. Friar Laurence notes that Romeo hasn’t slept that night, and he asks if Romeo has been with Rosaline. Romeo replies that he is now in love with Juliet, Capulet’s daughter, and she with him. He asks Friar Laurence to perform the marriage ceremony for himself and Juliet. Friar Laurence, seeing an opportunity to end the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues, agrees.

Analysis

Like the Queen Mab speech in Act I, Friar Laurence’s explication on herbs is one of the longer speeches in the play and seems to do nothing to advance the plot, yet it develops one of the play’s two major themes. The speech explains that the herbs Friar Laurence is gathering are neither all good nor all bad. Rather, whether they do good or ill depends on how they are used and the purpose for which they are intended.

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