R&J Project – Friars: Friend or Foes in the Elizabethan Age

Submitted by Genevieve Bleidner '13 on April 21, 2010

On Thursday, February 18, 2010 in the Egan Chapel, Fairfield University hosted a lecture given by Fr. Rick Rsycavage, the Director of the Center for Faith and Public Life. The lecture, which lasted from 5-6 p.m., was an installment in the series of events presented on campus this spring as a part of the Romeo and Juliet Project.

The lecture brought something new to the table for audience members – what was Shakespeare’s intention when using a friar as such a pivotal character in the play, during a time of great religious upheaval and turmoil for the Catholic Church? Fr. Rsycavage delved into the religious history of the time in which Shakespeare was alive, and speculated as to the role of the friar in Romeo and Juliet.

His talk got the audience thinking about whether the use of the friar was an intentional slight on the Catholic church, as he did marry the secret lovers and lead them to their demise. Was Shakespeare a Catholic in hiding? Or did the character reflect Shakespeare’s own ambivalent feelings about the Church, as the friar was neither evil nor all good?

Following Fr. Ryscavage’s talk, the audience was given an opportunity to ask questions and discuss the lecture. They left with a better knowledge of Shakespeare’s time, as well as his possible political and religious motivations as a playwright.

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