A Balanced Life is the Perfect Life: Analyzing Friar Lawrence’s Message as a Central Idea of the Text
Lesson 5 of 8
Objective: SWBAT determine a central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text by writing about Friar Lawrence's message regarding a balanced life.
Before we begin the reading today, we will briefly discuss the influence of religion in this play, citing the information they learned in the Shakespeare presentation at the opening of the unit. During the presentation, we talked about how England not only had an official religion (unlike the US), but the official religion changed at the will of the monarchy, and thus the faithful may not have been taken seriously. Therefore the Friar, technically a priest, is probably different from the type of man they usually associate with being a priest. I describe him at part Catholic priest and part herbalist.
I think it's important to start this way because students often don't know what to think of Friar Lawrence. They usually have some kind of preconceived notions about priests, yet not matter what these notions are, Friar Lawrence doesn't really meet them. It is helpful to provide context for him before they meet him, so that they can focus on the character instead of the title.
Meeting Friar Lawrence
Today we will read Act 2, scene 3, the scene where we meet Friar Lawrence. When the scene opens, Friar Lawrence is alone, picking flowers and weeds, which he collects in a basket. As he does such, he explains the qualities of plants and nature. His soliloquy pinpoints important components of the play (RL.9-10.2). Let me explain.
It is easy to disregard Friar Lawrence as merely one of the causes of the couple's demise, and surely he holds responsibility, but his message in this scene is clear and poignant: all good things can turn bad (and vice versa) because we all have virtue and vice within us. We will read through line 31, when the Friar begins to speak to Romeo, who has just arrived on scene. Then we will pause to write. I will ask students to paraphrase his message in their own words. I want to make sure that students are paying special attention to Friar Lawrence's message because he offers advice that all the characters, including himself, should have adhered to (arguably).
Why This Message?
Before finishing the scene, we will stop to think about what Friar Lawrence proposes about the nature of plants and humankind. I will ask students to respond to the following informational prompt (W.9-10.2):
This is the first time we are meeting Friar Lawrence. Why is this the first message we hear from him? What significance might it have? (RL.9-10.3)
Friar Lawrence's message in this scene is something we will come to throughout the play because it is a primary message: even loving out of balance can have disastrous effects. Students will have 15 minutes to write their answer and support it with textual evidence. Here are a few responses. This question takes students beyond simple summary. It is easy to become consumed with the lines themselves and to forgot the bigger picture, especially since the lines themselves are difficult. Pausing in our reading and granting the time for students to think abstractly is critical.
Finishing the Scene
Once students have answered the critical thinking question, we will finish reading Act 2, scene 3, pausing throughout to discuss the characters. In this section, we see the relationship between Romeo and the Friar (RL.9-10.3); they seem quite friendly. Friar Lawrence even teases Romeo, first about Rosaline, and then about getting over Rosaline so quickly. Romeo takes the teasing in stride. Understanding their relationship is important because it helps us understand why Friar Lawrence helps Romeo and Juliet throughout the play. He wants to end the feud because he likes and respects both families, particularly their children.