An Analysis of Shakespeare’s Take on Mercy

“The Quality of Mercy

The quality of mercy is not strain’d.
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.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.
His scepter 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 sceptered sway;
It is enthroned in the heart of kings;
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.” – William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s piece on mercy is certainly diction heavy, in fact, diction is the most outstanding aspect of this piece. Shakespeare first began by describing how mercy “is not strain’d” inferring that mercy is not a trait that comes from difficulty, grief, or struggles. This is evidenced by the following line where Shakespeare states that mercy drops like “gentle rain from heaven”, meaning that mercy is good, pure, and highly valued. The next line that proves Shakespeare’s considerable value for mercy comes when he claims that “it becomes the throned monarch better than his crown”. In this significant line, Shakespeare declares that mercy is much more powerful than the rulers themselves. Shakespeare continues to glorify mercy further by asserting that mercy is “the attribute to awe and majesty”, suggesting that mercy is a component of these very respected qualities that a king is required to have. Shakespeare concludes his piece by expressing that mercy “is enthroned in the heart of kings” and “is an attribute to God himself”. These two quotes compliment each other well in the sense that kings are supposed to be godlike and gods are often portrayed as being merciful and compassionate. Shakespeare then wraps up this correlation by voicing that “mercy seasons justice”, speculating that mercy lies within a ruler’s compassion and that this compassion is the root to their righteousness.

I chose this piece by William Shakespeare because of the balance the poem presents, by balance I mean that the variety of expressions of the word mercy. Shakespeare seamlessly bonds all the primary definitions and connotations of mercy into one piece that accurately describes the term. Not only does Shakespeare manage to mention the primary definitions and connotations, but also equally distribute the use of each expression.

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1 Comment

  1. Needs a graphic/multimedia!!
    You do know that “diction” means words? (“Shakespeare’s piece on mercy is certainly diction heavy, in fact, diction is the most outstanding aspect of this piece. “)
    I enjoyed this particularly for your explanation of balance…this is spoken by Portia, a woman in the guise of a male judge who is trying to “balance” the life of her lover against a pound of flesh.
    Very: synthesizes learned content and constructs new meaning; well organized
    written in an interesting style and voice; words used are carefully chosen, memorable, and bring the content to life;
    sentence fluency is smooth and naturally expressive
    all words spelled correctly; no grammar errors; formatting makes the post more interesting and easier to read
    no multimedia to add new information or perspective to post;


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