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ACT II, SCENE III
From the passion of the night, we go to the calm of early morning. As the sun rises, we find Friar Lawrence is in his cell (room) preparing to go out and gather "baleful weeds and precious-juiced flowers." He's a man who knows herbs and medicines; by his descriptions of the dawn and the dew, he's a man who loves nature. But his view of it is realistic: he knows that the same flower can be used for medicine or poison. After this scene, it will seem natural that the Friar will try to use his knowledge of medicines and potions to help the lovers.
Some readers feel that in this speech, Friar Lawrence states the themes of the play. He is aware of paradoxes:
The earth that's nature's mother is her tomb. What is her burying grave, that is her womb (II, iii, 9-10)
He also understands that everything-including people-have the potential for good or for evil:
For naught so vile that on the earth doth live But to the earth some special good doth give; Nor ought so good but, strained from that fair use, Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse. Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied, And vice sometime by action dignified. (II, iii, 17-22)
How does this apply to the lovers? Are we to think that love, a virtue, can become a sin? Or passion, a sin, can be used for good? Keep these questions in mind through the next few scenes.
Before the friar can leave his cell, Romeo calls a greeting. The friar is delighted to see him. He calls Romeo "young son", and means it in a deeper sense than the usual priest-parishioner relationship. The two are very close. Friar Lawrence knows more about Romeo than do his parents. When Romeo admits that he's been up all night, the friar sighs, "God pardon sin! Wast thou with Rosaline?"
But Romeo says he has only good news for the friar. He tells him he's forgotten Rosaline, and has been "feasting with mine enemy." When the friar asks him not to speak in riddles, Romeo comes to the point-he loves Juliet and wants the friar to marry them that very day. The friar's instant reaction is an emphatic no.
Holy Saint Francis! What a change is here! Is Rosaline, that thou didst love so dear, So soon forsaken? Young men's love then lies Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes. (II, iii, 65-68)
By the end of the scene, Friar Lawrence hasn't yet promised to marry them, but he admits that Romeo and Juliet's love could work to bury their families' hatred. Romeo pleads with him to hurriedly help them make plans but Friar Lawrence answers:
Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast. (II, iii, 94) This is another warning we know will go unheeded.