Personal Response to The Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice is a play about both love and hate. On the side of love, you see Bassanio and Portia falling in love in marriage, and on the other side you see the hatred shown from Christians towards Jews, and a strong hatred between the Christian Antonio and Shylock the Jew showed in court after Antonio failed to pay off a bond owed to Shylock. On both sides, you have an overall happy ending. Yet coming to that conclusion there were signs of mercy shown from Shylock and shown by Bassanio. But what is Mercy?

Mercy in the true definition is “showing compassion/forgiveness toward someone within the power to punish or harm.” Mercy is also kindness and a sign of selflessness. Yet mercy can be in many ways. In the play during the court scene, it was first offered to Shylock towards Antonio from Portia and the Duke but refused. Then Shylock showed that mercy by not taking a pound of flesh from Antonio, even though they both showed no mercy to each other, Shylock was forced to show mercy, unless he were to die, then agreed to terms so he would be spared (Act IV, scene I, pp. 81-82, lines: 376-395). Then further on in the play, it was shown. Again by Bassanio asking for mercy from Portia after he took off his ring, he’d promise he wouldn’t take off (Act V, scene I, pp. 96, lines: 240-244).

The act and asking for mercy is significant in this play and is throughout the story. It was first shown by Lancelot asking for forgiveness from his father after toying with him when he is blind (Act II, scene II, pp. 21-25). But one significant subject that came up with mercy is Portia’s “Quality of Mercy” speech during the court session (Act V, scene I, pp. 73, lines: 183-204). In her speech, Portia is trying to convince Shylock to be merciful like God is towards us. She also makes the connection of mercy with the Christian idea of salvation.

The idea of mercy is brought up in this play and many of Shakespeare’s plays. It was also heavily used back in the day. We tend to ignore how important it is in a play as it can bring a play together and makes it so that the story stays interesting and dramatic.

Leave a Reply