Mercy Trumps Justice


Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. 


Justice is when you get what you deserve.

Grace is when you get what you don’t deserve.

Mercy is when you don’t get what you deserve.

I’m teaching a group of high school homeschoolers Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.  One of the important themes is mercy.  Portia’s speech is perhaps the most well-known speech in the play. Shylock had demanded a pound of flesh instead of monetary interest if his loan to Antonio could not be repaid. Portia’s pleas was to let mercy prevail over justice.

Indeed, we could all benefit by showing a bit more mercy in these troubled times.


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. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.

6 thoughts on “Mercy Trumps Justice

  1. I memorized her speech 53 years ago and still remember the first six lines, along with Shylock’s response to Antonio when he comes to ask for the loan. Here is what I remember of it, by heart: “Senor Antonio, many the time and oft in the Rialto, you have rated me about my monies and my usances. Still have I borne it with a patient shrug, for sufferance is the badge of all my tribe. You call me misbeliever, cutthroat dog and spit upon my Jewish gabardine and all for want of that which is mine own. Now then, you come to me and you say you would have monies. You say so. You that did void your rheum upon my beard and foot me as you spurn a stranger cur over your threshold! Monies is your suit. . . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s pretty impressive, Judy 🙂 My students have been surprised at the outright racism in the play. It was standard for the time, and everyone knew it. They didn’t worry about political correctness back then. What surprised them most, I think, was that Shylock hated Christians just as much as they hated Jews. One of the guys in class was shocked that even Portia expressed racism 🙂 How the times have changed. Thanks so much for your comment.


      1. Yes, I agree. It just came as such a surprise to kids brought up in this era of “racism is the most evil crime in the world” to see it so bluntly portrayed and seeming to be accepted as normal. We’ve had some very interesting conversations.

        Liked by 1 person

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