To understand Shakespearean perspective on Justice in The Merchant of Venice it must be clear that they were in the reign of Elizabeth I. During this particular time Jewish people were hated and the Christians believed that they were superior. Shakespeare considered there to be a difference between law and Justice, he shows that if the law is blindly applied without the Christian idea of mercy and fairness, the pursuer will fall.
Portia, the mouthpiece of Shakespeare, gives a moving speech on the ‘divine quality of mercy in which she tells us all about mercy blessing the giver and the giver. She also tells us that without the application of mercy and the law together there cannot be Justice or fairness. This is the exact thing she tries to get Shylock to understand. “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 some prayer doth teach us all to render to deeds of mercy. She appeals to Shylock that he should spare Notation’s life saying that we all pray for mercy and are saved by God being merciful toward us, we should also be merciful towards each other. Portia vocalizes that mercy is a quality of God himself and those that temper harsh Justice with this noble and celestial attribute become like God himself. It’s also a power that is “enthroned” in the heart of a mighty emperor. Shylock cannot seem to fathom this concept of giving mercy, being a Jew plays a major part in the reasons behind this.
The Christians of this time were anti-Semitism, meaning they hated people of Jewish faith. They were living in a life where they were lesser than most other people and never would anyone think to show a little mercy toward them. Portia seems to be one of the very few in the play that can see past the vengeful exterior that Shakespeare stereotypically placed on Shylock and she tries to make him feel guilt and to forget about the pound of flesh he would receive if that bond were to break.
As the audience, we can clearly see why Shylock will not give up his opportunity to seek revenge on Antonio, he is a Jew and is always treated badly and this is his one chance to finally be the superior one and have people beg him for mercy, but within a second the tables turn. Shylock brings forward a touching speech hat gives another perspective as to why he wanted to bring down Antonio, “If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die?
And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? ” For what he is seeking Justice goes a lot deeper than the ducats he has lost, he wants to make the Christians pay for what he’s gone through his entire life. The compelling argument between Shylock and Portia during the court scene is one of the more important parts of The Merchant of Venice. It shows us, the audience that although the law is on Shylock side everyone Just expects him to show mercy, Justice in Merchant of Venice By marinara’s more. Nothing less.
This scene is where the use of the double-edged sword comes into place. He, theoretically speaking, stabbed Antonio viciously with this sword only for it to be pushed into him with the same force. He gave Antonio Justice without any thought of applying mercy, so that’s exactly what he shall get in return. When he hears that the bond states, “Doth give here thee no Jot of blood” he is dumbfounded and simply asks, “Is that the law? ” even when the tables have turned all he wants is for the law to be applied.
Once finding out this, the coward off man backs down and accepts Portrait’s proposal of taking three thousand ducats and letting Antonio go, Portia wants him to have his Justice. “For as thou urges Justice, be assured thou shall have Justice more than thou dearest. ” Shylock will be getting more than he bargained for whilst receiving his Justice. During Act IV, scene I, Portia finds a loophole in Shylock bond and the roles are reversed. He was so eager to blindly apply the law without a care in the world about mercy, but now when he is sitting in front of the court for his own actions, that is all e wants, mercy.
Portia will not let him leave or even show him any mercy, which is very hypocritical in relation to her touching speech made earlier but it is not as though he is a deserving contender. “He shall have merely Justice and his bond. ” He is made to suffer, though not through physical pain, but through humiliation and self-deflation. These making an appearance when Antonio receives his own Justice when the Duke agrees to compensate Shylock penalty by turning him into a Christian and giving his possessions to Lorenz and Jessica, his daughter.
All Shylock an do is accept that he is not being killed so he asks to leave after agreeing. “l am content. ” In order to understand the complexity of Shakespearean perspective on Justice during this era context must be put into place that religion was one of the main contributing factors and the Christians were on top of the hierarchy whilst the Jewish people were on the bottom. In conclusion, a blind application of the law is not the best way to seek revenge or Justice. This needs to be dealt with consideration of others; meaning mercy is needed for this to be efficient.