Monday, October 17, 2011


I mentioned about four different things I was thinking strongly about last Friday by the end of my reading and viewing of The Merchant of Venice. I probably could do a large dealio where I analyze all the elements that caught my attention and had enough substance to say something about.  However, I share but one for now.  This play has a very strong theme of mercy versus justice, especially in the fourth act when Antonio and Shylock's bond is brought to court.  Here are some of the moments focusing on the law and justice:

Act 3, Scene 3 Shylock:
"I'll have my bond; speak not against my bond: I have sworn an oath that I will have my bond."
 Act 4, Scene 1 (All from Shylock):
"I am not bound to please thee with my answers." 
"What judgment shall I dread, doing
Were in six parts and every part a ducat,
I would not draw them; I would have my bond." 
"The pound of flesh, which I demand of him,
Is dearly bought; 'tis mine and I will have it.
If you deny me, fie upon your law!
There is no force in the decrees of Venice.
I stand for judgment: answer; shall I have it?"
There are many more, but I think these few are enough to show Shylock's insistence on having his due from the law.  He's 'bound' and determined to see the law fulfilled, which his opponent Christians must still follow, despite the fact they're at odds.  Following are some comments from some of the Christians focusing on mercy:

Act 4, Scene 1
Duke: "How shalt thou hope for mercy, rendering none?" 
Portia: "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;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there."
Being LDS, I can't help but think of the portion in the Book of Mormon that addresses this subject, in Alma 42.  The most cohesive connection between these two that I find is where both mercy and justice can be satisfied, but a third party is necessary, and this is where the lines between mercy/justice and my next topic cross. Segue!


  1. Google translate said the title of the post says "Or justice or mercy, which wins." That makes sense connected to your post, but why japanese?

  2. Well honestly I try to keep good titles for my post, and I started thinking in Japanese for a random moment, so it just kind of came to be. Google translated it decently, but to be picky I'd translate it more to "justice or mercy, which is the victor?" I meant to give the translation in the text, so I'm glad you brought that up. Japanese people are all about doing things properly and have a strict social code, so I guess I could say this title might make people wonder if justice should win out.

  3. So Gabe is saying that the outcome of mercy vs. justice also has a lot to do with the cultural background you come from, right? I feel that growing up here in the US, we've been taught to accept people and their differences. Does that play more into mercy? Is that why I tend to side more with Antonio?

  4. Ooh Angie brings up a good point. I admit I wasn't consciously thinking that as I wrote this post, but I do feel that way, where cultural background is an influence in how people view the law versus mercy.