Analyse a quote from Act 4.1 of the merchant of Venice that portray the theme of justice and another quote that portray the theme of mercy and analsye the quote and explain how it portrays the theme.

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"PORTIA [as Balthazar]
Tarry a little; there is something else.
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood.
The words expressly are "a pound of flesh."
Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh,
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."

I like this quote for the justice quote.  In reality, a reader could pick just about any line from Act 4 scene 1, and it would likely be a justice quote.  This quote comes just before Shylock is going to get his pound of flesh.  Shylock has been asked to give mercy and refused.  Shylock was offered 3 times what he was owed instead of taking his pound of flesh and refused.  Shylock's reasoning was always more or less "the law must be followed."  That's not really his motivation.  He wants revenge, and he's using the law to get it. This quote shows how Portia is using the exact letter of the law to save Antonio from Shylock.  She says that the deal made called for a pound of flesh, but no blood.  If Shylock draws any blood from a Christian man (Antonio just so happens to be a Christian), then Venice law stipulates that Shylock's property will be confiscated and turned over to the state.  It's a nice turn of events against Shylock because it's using justice, the very thing Shylock kept emphasizing, to save Antonio. 

For mercy, I like the following quote: 

"But mercy is above this sceptered 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 

This quote is also spoken by Portia.  She is asking Shylock to consider giving mercy to Antonio instead of seeking letter of the law justice.  Portia says that offering mercy is God-like because that is what God has done for humanity.  People are all sinners and deserve Hell for it, but God, through his mercy, offers salvation.  Shylock doesn't go for this.  He claims that he isn't seeking mercy for Antonio or from a Christian God (since he is Jewish). 

Read the study guide:
The Merchant of Venice

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