Religion played a very important role in society during the 16th century. The church was highly influential and people attended church every Sunday without fail. It was so important that anyone who did not attend was immediately fined. The church was also used as an institute for marriage and was the only place you could go to validate it. There were strict rules when it came to honoring marriage, and couples were not allowed to live together unless they were husband and wife. Divorce was also highly prohibited and uncommon during the period. Religion was held in such high esteem that sometimes it was considered even more important than the Law.
Friar Lawrence is a good representative of religious authority, he is well regarded by the Capulets and Romeo regularly goes to him to seek advice. Both characters respect him more than anyone else and trust his plan of action. What is said to the Friar is said in vows and he cannot repeat it, therefore making him a trustworthy character. The Friar knows the importance of marriage and does what he can to protect the marriage of Romeo and Juliet. However, some of his actions raise questions about the abuse of religious authority, when used as a means to gain honour or status.
Naturally, the play depicts the religious authority of the church and the characters all abide by its rulings. When Romeo and Juliet meet and fall in love, the only way for them to be together is for them to marry. The Capulets who are unaware of the secret marriage between the two, demand Juliet marry Paris, however, religiously it is impossible for a married woman to marry another man. Interestingly Romeo and Juliet do not follow all the rules in the book and when they commit suicide by the end of the play, they are ultimately committing a sin, as suicide is prohibited.
The fate of Romeo and Juliet is made clear from the start of the play. The prologue mentions that Romeo and Juliet are destined to die, the quote “start-crossed lovers” implies that the stars were not in their favour. Another important quote “shake the yoke of inauspicious stars” implies that Romeo cannot escape his ultimate fate and throughout the play. Whether fate is used as a tool to place blame, is open to interpretation. Whether the young lovers were fated to die or whether it was entirely a result of their own actions is also a question worth considering.