In the merchant of Venice the issue of Mercy plays a role in Shylock’s trial. Portia grants all this weight and all this meaning to mercy “The quality of mercy is not strain’d, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven…It blesseth him that gives and him that takes” (4.1) but when she demands that Shylock be merciful towards Antonio and forgo this pound of flesh, she in turn does the opposite as well and forces Shylock to convert to Christianity and takes half his lands from him forcing Shylock to beg for mercy from a hypocrite is cannot give it.

“The pound of flesh, which I demand of him, Is dearly bought; ’tis mine and I will have it. If you deny me, fie upon your law!” (4.1) Shylock hides behind the law using it as a weapon hoping for the best outcome “My deeds upon my head! I crave the law, The penalty and forfeit of my bond.” (4.1) but Christians were extremely biased towards Jews and although Portia tells the court that he is in the right and that he should have his pound of flesh, the tables turn on the poor guy. There was no outcome where he was going to win, because of the complete hypocrisy of the Christians. Jews relied on the Old Testament where they must adhere to strict rules and harsh punishments were handed down when these rules weren’t followed and they did not view God as merciful, but Christians followed the New Testament where with the writings of St. Paul and such God is viewed as much more merciful. Which would serve the Christian’s antisemitism. The Jew in Elizabethan times was viewed as incapable of showing compassion for his adversary, but the Christian could grant mercy in abundance (also they were apparently always right no matter what)… which of course does not happen because they are all hypocrites!

~Alexandra Watkins

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