The morning after meeting Juliet, Romeo heads to Friar Laurence to set his plans into action. Act 2, Scene 3 represents a turning point in 'Romeo and Juliet' and shows that the best of intentions can turn out in the worst of ways.
So, by Act 2, Scene 3 of the play we know our lovers and their stories. We know that the two families are feuding, and we know that Romeo and Juliet's relationship, if discovered, will not be tolerated. She tells him in the famous balcony scene that it would mean his death if he is caught there, and she's not exaggerating. Lord Capulet was merciful when Romeo crashed his party, but he wouldn't be so accommodating if he knew Romeo was in love with his only daughter.
Act 2, Scene 3 introduces us to Friar Laurence, who is an important, though mainly off-stage, player in Romeo and Juliet. He is good and wise and embodies all that is both holy and pure in Verona. In that way, he stands apart from the feud that's tearing Verona apart. Friar Laurence's special knowledge is in the usage of plants for their medicinal qualities.
In addition, we learn more about Romeo Montague, who is the teenage scion of the Montague family. He is impetuous and fickle, and once he sets his mind to something he will do anything to master or possess it. Romeo is unwilling to entertain any point of view but his own.
Act 2, Scene 3 Summary
When Act 2, Scene 3 starts, it's early morning, and Friar Laurence enters the scene carrying a large basket. He's working in his garden, filling his basket with plants and flowers. We learn about his deep knowledge of plants and their medical uses, which will become very important later in the play. He points out that every plant has a good and evil usage, much like most everything in the world. While Friar Laurence is still collecting plants, Romeo enters.
Friar Laurence immediately realizes that Romeo hasn't slept at all. His immediate fear - that Romeo has sinned by sleeping with Rosaline - is calmed by Romeo's insistence that he hasn't even seen Rosaline. In fact, he doesn't love her anymore. Friar Laurence is happy to hear this, but his relief doesn't last.
Romeo fills the Friar in on his meeting the night before. He declares his love for Juliet and tells Friar Laurence that they will be married. In fact, Romeo wants Friar Laurence to marry them today. Friar Laurence is taken aback by this sudden swing in Romeo's affections, but by now we probably aren't too surprised.
Friar Laurence lectures Romeo on the fickleness of his love, but Romeo points out the most obvious difference: Juliet loves him, while Rosaline didn't care. Friar Laurence shoots back that Rosaline was smart not to love Romeo if his love is so changeable. Nothing Romeo can say convinces the Friar of the depth of his love for Juliet, but the Friar agrees to perform the marriage ceremony.
Friar Laurence then admits his reason for agreeing to the marriage--that maybe the union of the son of Montague and the daughter of Capulet will end the feud that has been terrorizing Verona.
The friar goes on to pontificate on the duality of nature, how everything has a side that is both good and evil. The friar also talks about the uses of plants and how when things are misused they can lead to evil or harm. Nothing, according to Friar Laurence, is purely good or evil; rather, everything is defined by its use.
He also mentions how evil can corrupt what's good, and vice versa. He hopes that by agreeing to what is on the outside is a very bad match will lead to the ending of the feud that has haunted these families for generations. Unfortunately, in a sense, Friar Laurence will succeed in uniting the houses of Capulet and Montague, but only through the deaths of the young lovers.
As one of the shortest scenes in Romeo and Juliet, it would be easy to overlook this conversation between Romeo and Friar Laurence, but Act 2, Scene 3 is vital to the development of the plot in a few ways. First, it shows us that Friar Laurence is good with plants, which will become important later in the play. Second, it sets up the ending of the play. The friar's motives for performing the wedding are both explicitly stated and admirable, like the man himself; yet, also like the friar himself, the ending will bring both good and evil. This wedding will end the feud, but also take the lives of the young lovers.