In "The Merchant of Venice," what does Portia say about justice and mercy in her "Quality of Mercy" speech?

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reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act IV, Scene 1, Portia gives her famous 'Quality of Mercy' speech to the Court of Justice in Venice. She is disguised as a lawyer and has traveled to Venice to attempt to save the life of Antonio from his bond with the Jew, Shylock, who wants Antonio's pound of flesh. Portia implores Shylock to forfeit the bond and show mercy because mercy, in itself will be rewarded by the giving and taking,"...it is twice bless'd." Also, mercy is the most important asset of monarchs (kings), for a king who employs mercy does not let his power overtake him:"...it becomes the throned monarch better than his crown." Portia pleads with the Jew to forego justice, for Shylock does have a just right to the pound of flesh through the signed bond and instead, she begs for mercy:"...in the course of justice none of us should see salvation; we do pray for mercy..." Unfortunately, Shylock wants justice; "I do crave the law." Ironically enough, in pleading for mercy in this case, we can later ask whether Portia and the Court showed Shylock mercy, perhaps a bigger question!!!

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The Merchant of Venice

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