Some of the important quotes from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice focus on deep themes that are universal today as they were 500 years ago. However, modern-day perspectives do not necessarily receive this play at the intended comedy as it was first played. Themes of racism, justice and mercy, though understood on a higher level today, were just as important for Shakespeare's time as they are today. As humans are born and taught to hate, they must also learn to get along when dealing in society, at home, or in business. When two differing view-points and cultures collide, as they do in this play, the debate that follows tends to be heated and generally difficult to understand from both sides.
One side that is portrayed in the play is that of Shylock's, the Jew. He has been embarrassed and humiliated by Antonio, the merchant, throughout much of his adult life and he must decide whether or not to take revenge. His most famous quote questions why Christians see Jews in a different light than themselves, and why they seem to feel justified in bullying him. Shylock wonders:
I am a Jew: hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew
hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? why, revenge. The villany you teach me I will execute; and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction (III.i.51-63).
Similarly, other passages that deal with either justice or mercy are quite prominent to the story and its themes. The links below will guide you to others that discuss these as well as other themes.