image of Portia and Shyloc from the Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

“The Quality of Mercy”

A post from parishioner, Nancy Marcy.

The piece I quoted in church on July 25 is taken from William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. It occurs where Portia demands Shylock be merciful, stating that “The quality of mercy is not strain’d, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven/Upon the place beneath” (Act-IV, Scene-I). In this way, Portia directly makes an appeal to Shylock to leave Antonio’s life, saying that, as we all pray and plead to God for mercy, to be merciful and kind towards us, likewise Shylock should be merciful and kind to him, and he will get a reward from heaven.

The quality of mercy is not strained;
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:
‘T is 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 enthronèd 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. 

“The quality of mercy” is a speech given by Portia in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (Act 4, Scene 1).