top-rated free essay

Mercy vs Justice

By taaylorlamothe Apr 09, 2013 756 Words
In William Shakespeare’s The Merchant Of Venice the theme mercy vs justice is

shown throughout the play from many characters in the play such as Shylock, Antonio

and Portia. This shows the characters personalities and different attitudes towards the

giving and taking of mercy and justice to provide a great deal of conflict throughout the


The first time we see the theme mercy vs justice is when Shylock lends Antonio money

after accepting the bond in hope that Antonio will not pay him back on time, therefore

getting a pound of Antonio’s flesh. “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.”(I,iii,142-147). This shows that Shylock does not show any compassion for

Antonio for if he does not get the money back on time, he will surely die from a pound of

flesh being cut from his body. Shylock shows no mercy towards Antonio when he does

not pay him back on time, and Shylock insists on a pound of Antonio’s flesh because it

in is validity with the law and he thinks Antonio should get what he deserves. Shylock

also shows no mercy towards his daughter Jessica when she wants to make her own

choices and decisions. When Jessica wants to be with a Christian named Lorenzo,

Shylock immediately disagrees with her choice and forbids her to see him. Shylock

thinks this is best for his daughter because he does not want her to marry a Christian

since they are Jewish. He thinks Jessica should only marry a Jew and shows no

forgiveness towards his daughter when she runs off with Lorenzo and her fathers


Another time we see the theme of mercy vs justice in the play is from Antonio. When

Antonio see’s that his friend Bassanio is in need of money after spending a great deal of

it himself, Antonio is quick to lend Bassanio the money he needs to woo the girl of his

dreams, Portia. Antonio puts his own life at risk when he takes the money from Shylock

to give to his friend Bassanio. When Antonio does not pay Shylock back on time, he

almost loses a pound of his flesh and his life, but is saved by Portia who is disguised as

the doctor when she finds a loophole that gets Antonio out of it. Antonio is quick to

forgive Bassanio for getting him into this and is very merciful throughout the play

towards the other characters. “I pray you, good Bassanio, let me know it/And if it stand,

as you yourself still do,/Within the eye of honour, be assur’d/My purse,my person,my

extremest means/Lie all unlock’d to your occasions”(I,i,135-139) This shows that

Antonio is willing to do anything for his friend, and is saying that everything he owns is

unlocked for Bassanio, so he can have anything he owns to make him happy.

Portia also plays a part in the theme of mercy vs justice, when she tries to convince

Shylock that he should have mercy over Antonio instead of taking a pound of his flesh

like they agreed on. Since Shylock is all about the law he disagrees since he wants

revenge on Antonio and thinks that he is just getting what he deserves. Once Portia has

turned Shylocks greatest weapon, the law, against him when she points out that one

drop of Christians blood will make Shylock lose everything that he has. “But, in the

cutting it, if thou dost shed/One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods/Are, by the

laws of Venice,confiscate/Unto the state of Venice”(IV,i,307-310). In the end Shylock is

stripped of his bond, his estate and his dignity all because he showed no mercy towards

Antonio. Portia also shows mercy towards Bassanio in the play because she forgave

him even though he lied about getting in trouble with the law and giving away the ring

that Portia gave him.

In conclusion, a lot of mercy and justice is shown throughout the play, which causes a

lot of conflict and debates during the play. It also shows how the Christians and Jews

act differently throughout the play and how their actions and decisions affect them in the


Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • Mercy vs. Justice

    ...Mercy vs. Justice How can mercy compete with justice to create an ordered and supportive world? King Lear is an excellent example of a world without justice. Justice allows for three things. When there is justice, natural laws are created, wrongs can be set right, and there are chances for mercy. Without justice, none of these would be possib...

    Read More
  • Justice vs Mercy

    ...Justice is the most fundamental requirement of a properly functioning, civilized society. An unwavering system of cause and effect that apply to all members is exactly what human beings need to ensure peaceful living. As the events and characters of Shakespeare’s King Lear clearly indicate, mercy is extremely important in dealing with problems...

    Read More
  • Merchant of Venice: Mercy and Justice

    ...Venice, mercy and justice are the continuing predominant themes. Situations occur, that doing the just act does not seem to be correct or the right thing to do. Technically, the correct thing to do is to follow and abide by justice and the law. For in this case, justice means the taking of a man’s life for the greed and sick revenge of another...

    Read More
  • Justice and Mercy in the Merchant of Venice

    ...Matthew Wheadon Oct. 23, 2012 Justice and Mercy in The Merchant of Venice In the court room scene of The Merchant of Venice, justice is handed back and forth between the Christians and Shylock, unlike mercy. Shylock is unable to feel any remorse for Antonio and the Christians because of the hate he has for them. Stubbornness and hatred ...

    Read More
  • Mercy and Justice

    ...Mercy and justice: Can they coexist? Abstract This paper is about if mercy and justice can co-exist. The paper discusses justice in today’s society, mercy’s role in the justice system, and God’s mercy and justice. Mercy and justice: Can they coexist? Mercy and justice can be viewed as two separate virtues. While justice seeks reso...

    Read More
  • King Lear Justice vs. Mercy Essay Example

    ...“Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just” were words said by Blaise Pascal (1623-1663). If mercy was really that important, a great mind like Blaise Pascal would have inserted “mercy” in his quote. Justice is by far the most critical component of society i...

    Read More
  • Mercy, Autonomy, and Justice

    ...Mercy, Autonomy, and Justice A part of life is facing death. There are numerous ways how death can occur; however, the most controversial seems to be the morality of euthanasia. “Euthanasia is generally defined as the act, undertaken only by a physician, that intentionally ends the life of a person at his or her request” (Pereira: 1).The...

    Read More
  • Justice Versus Mercy

    ...absence of war but the presence of justice” (Ford, Harrison). Justice is very essential to restore a fair and supportive society. I am a staunch advocate of the fact that the societies where injustice prevails, they suffer badly and their future’s end in mere darkness. This is not a fact but your opinion. Justice can be interpreted as receiv...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.