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The Merchant of Venice: Justice, Mercy and Revenge

by Ethan Greentree, for English 10

on 25 November 2015

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Transcript of The Merchant of Venice: Justice, Mercy and Revenge

The judgement on Shylock in the day of Shakespeare was deemed as "mercy". Is taking everything a person lives for showing "mercy" to them? Or does Shakespeare have a different meaning hidden underneath? Is he mocking Christians as being unjust to people of a different religion?
In "The Merchant of Venice", mercy, justice and revenge are constantly at odds with each other. First, Shylock wanted revenge and attempted to kill Antonio. Second, the "mercy" and "justice" of the Christians was demonstrated by taking away Shylock's religion, wealth, and home.
If I had been mistreated like Shylock, I would want revenge, too. I would want Antonio to pay for his wrong doings. Though I would not want him dead, I'd want him to feel the same hardships I had to endure.
Shylock, though his judgment on how to deal with Antonio was flawed, was asking for something everyone wants: to be respected no matter what your beliefs are.
Justice, Mercy and Revenge
Justice, mercy and revenge are all shown to us through Shakespeare's ingenius hand. Each one was used to one person's gain and shows us how Christians of that era were so unjust to people of another religion, and how Shylock refused to show mercy to Antonio and attempted his revenge.
The Merchant of Venice
“The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;”
Shylock's hatred for Antonio was unquenchable. First, Antonio insulted him in public and spat on him. Second, Antonio would loan people money with no interest rate, which stole most of Shylock's business away. Even when Shylock loans the money to Bassanio, Antonio vows to insult and spit on him again.
Because he tried to kill Antonio, Shylock had to give up his religion and his wealth . Christians deemed this judgement as "mercy" for sparing Shylock's life, then taking away everything Shylock had to live for.
If I had to give up everything, I would want to find a new thing to do with my life, instead of trying to end it like Shylock.
The Story
Portia, seeing that Shylock wasn't going to give Antonio mercy of his own volition, decided to try and change his mind.
Portia's Mercy Speech
We see mercy, justice and revenge collide in the courtroom scene.
Her point: Mercy is greater than revenge.
Go with me to a notary, seal me there
Your single bond; and, in a merry sport,
If you repay me not on such a day,
In such a place, such sum or sums as are
Express'd in the condition, let the forfeit
Be nominated for an equal pound
Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken
In what part of your body pleaseth me.

Shylock, After the Trial, by John Gilbert
The Interpretation
Full transcript