How fast will be fast enough? (5.2.20-30)

FRIAR LAWRENCE                             Friar John, go hence,

                                    Get me an iron crow and bring it straight

                                    Unto my cell.

FRIAR JOHN               Brother, I’ll go and bring it thee.                             Exit.

FRIAR LAWRENCE     Now must I to the monument alone,

                                    Within this three hours will fair Juliet wake.

                                    She will beshrew me much that Romeo

                                    Hath had no notice of these accidents;

                                    But I will write again to Mantua,

                                    And keep her at my cell till Romeo come,

                                    Poor living corse, closed in a dead man’s tomb!    Exit. (5.2.20-30)

Friar John is eager to please, and clearly foresees no problems in procuring a crowbar; this tiny exchange also, perhaps, demonstrates that he’s not one to ask questions or argue. (Friar Lawrence would have talked his way out of that plague-suspected house, and got to Mantua no matter what.) And the scene ends with a reminder that Friar Lawrence doesn’t know – no one, except Balthasar knows – the most crucial thing – that Romeo thinks that Juliet is dead. The Friar’s care is all for Juliet – and here we also see part of the point of Juliet’s long speeches, both to the Friar and in soliloquy, on the imagined horrors of being shut in a vault with the dead. The Friar is worried that she’ll wake up alone and be frightened, and that she’ll be cross with him, beshrew him for not getting hold of Romeo in time and letting him know about the plan, giving him notice of these accidents. That is what the Friar most fears. It’ll all be fine, so long as he can get there to explain and console her, and he’ll write again to Mantua, and she can just stay quietly in his cell until Romeo can get to Verona. A hiccup, and unfortunate, but not a disaster. But we know that it’s much worse than that, that there’s far, far more at stake. Juliet, waiting for the Nurse to bring news from Romeo, commented that old folks, many feign as they were dead, unwieldy, slow, heavy, and pale as lead. That different sense of time, of timeliness, and what constitutes speed has now become disastrously crucial. The Friar thinks in terms of letters, even perhaps delivered by a man on foot (although Zeffirelli gives him a mule). Romeo and Juliet are galloping horses, gunpowder, lightning, swift as thought.

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