Literature is an important part in the arts, it raises questions, extend and explains issues on a much more different level comparing only to visual arts. The Merchant of Venice for example, was a great piece of work crafted that raised many concerns about the basic morals and ethics of human, namely: the justification for revenge and the power, the nature of mercy. This has been shown very well through two important details: Shylock’s main speech about the unfairness of Jews, Portia’s speech about what mercy is.
For Shylock, he is a prime example of someone whose lines have been crossed because of his identity, pushing him to seek revenge and justice. Through understanding his main speech, readers can empathize with him and understand that to discriminate someone because of their originality is wrong. “If it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies—and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? . . . 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 villainy you teach me I will execute—and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.” (Act 3, Scene 1, line 47-65) Shylock pressed on the matter of the universality of human. We all shares the same of many things: we have the same body parts, food keep all of us full, poisons and weapons can hurt and kill us, etc. If we are so similar in many ways, why would we want to hurt each other so bad? The logic and thought process is very simple that it easy to understand and readers can support Shylock that he should get his revenge. Therefore because humans are similar in many ways, his revenge can be justified.
However, it did not come easy for him as in the courtroom, Portia also made a sound argument as he did but about mercy. “The quality of mercy is not strain’d, it droppeth as gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: it blesseth him that gives, and him that takes…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.” (Act 4, Scene 1, line 183-204) For Portia, mercy is a choice rather than what we should do meaning that human chooses mercy, not vice versa. Applying this logic to Shylock’s motive, then it also make just as much sense because if he did kill Antonio, how much satisfaction will he get out of it? Even then, after killing him, will there be any guarantee that he will not be mistreated anymore? These points, too, are worth noting as it makes us questions about how our actions can be the seeds to bigger consequences that we might have to carry. Not to mention, why is mercy a powerful weapon, according to Portia? To have mercy is not to forget, but to know that even when somebody does something wrong, we do not let loose ourselves of control and poison ourselves. This goes back to the previous question: how much satisfaction comes from revenge for Shylock? Even if it satisfy him well, will he be understood still or just be seen as a cold-blooded killer whom will be shun and hated for the remaining course of his life?
It is a hard question to answer: what is right? Revenge or mercy? For as if we do not get revenge, we will not be able to redeem for what have been lost. But on the other hand, if we do not have mercy, how worth can our revenges be? Although Shylock has every right to execute Antonio for his revenge, maybe Portia was right, that he could have taken the money that was given to him and move on from his life and have mercy for Antonio not because Portia told him so, but he can do it as his own choice. Even when it was such a tough decision, he can at least give himself peace.
Overall, The Merchant of Venice was well written with many contrasting topics, such as this one and it is a great chance for readers to understand more about the nature of topics like these and broaden their point of view.