Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Scenes from the Comedies and Histories
The Quality of Mercy
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
From ‘The Merchant of Venice

Scene: Venice.  A Court of Justice.

PORTIA—I am informèd throughly of the cause.
Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew?
  Duke—Antonio and old Shylock, both stand forth.
  Portia—Is your name Shylock?
  Shylock—                    Shylock is my name.
  Portia—Of a strange nature is the suit you follow;        5
Yet in such rule that the Venetian law
Cannot impugn you, as you do proceed.—
[To Antonio]—You stand within his danger, do you not?
  Antonio—Ay, so he says.
  Portia—                Do you confess the bond?
  Antonio—I do.
  Portia—        Then must the Jew be merciful.
  Shylock—On what compulsion must I? tell me that.
  Portia—The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath; it is twice blessed,—
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.        15
’Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The thronèd 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;        20
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,        25
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        30
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence ’gainst the merchant there.
  Shylock—My deeds upon my head. I crave the law;
The penalty and forfeit of my bond.        35

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