-: Mercy :-
(1564 - 1616)
About the Poet :-
Shakespeare was born at Stratford-on-Avon. Very little is known about his early life education. When his father's fortune declined, he went to Landon for earning money. By hard labour he established himself as an actor and then as a playwright. He wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets. Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth and Othello are some of his important plays. He is one of the greatest poets and dramatists of the English language.
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 throne 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 enthroned 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.
The poem is an eloquent appeal for mercy. It is taken from The Merchant of Venice. Shylock lends money to Antonio. When Antonio fails to pay the money back in time, Shylock sues Antonio in the court of law. Bassanio's wife Portia appears in the court on behalf of Antonia. She tries to change Shylock by an appeal to his sense of mercy. Raleigh has aptly remarked, " If the voice of Shakespeare is heard in his plays, it is in the wonderful speech on mercy by Portia."
There is an apt use of simile, when the poet compares mercy to the gentle rain. The divine qualities of mercy have been beautifully illustrated in the poem.
-: Glossary :
strained : forced
blessing : bestows Divine favour
mightiest : most powerful
throned monarch : king
his sceptre ......
temporal power : The royal rod or staff carried by the king is a sign of power and authority.
the attribute to awe and majesty : The sceptre is the symbol of fear and reverence to the king.
wherein ........ kings : The sceptre commands submission and fear on the part of the people for their king.
enthroned : given a high place
likes : most like
seasons : gets mingled with
-: Central Idea of the Poem :-
This poem is a strong appeal for mercy. The poet points out that mercy is the most important quality. It cannot be forced. It is like gentle rain on the earth below. It is also a double blessing. It blesses both the giver and the receiver. It suits the king better than his crown. The crown of the king shows worldly power. Mercy shows moral and spiritual power. It is a quality of God. Earthly power becomes God - like when mercy is mixed with justice.