Merchant of Venice

A Comedy of Horrors: Mercy Gone Mercenary in The Merchant of Venice

There is a method to the madness that is Shakespearean Comedy. Every Comedy has an outline and "The Merchant of Venice" is no exception. This highly social dilemma centers on the pursuit of love and money and concludes with the joyous acquisition of just that. But while beautiful people pursue beautiful things, something dark is going on beneath and made light of through Shakespearean wit. The sources of human identity are probed as a Venetian moneylender transforms into the monster he is pressured to become and a beautiful heiress mutates mercy and justice into wicked trickery. Portia's plea for mercy in the fourth act is the most poetic and moving speech in all of this play and it is in comparison to this oration that the disturbing undertones of "The Merchant of Venice" become the most apparent.

A close reading of Portia's Mercy Speech (IV,i,190-212) discloses a tone and rhetoric entirely unlike anything else in this play.

"The quality of mercy is not strained./It dropeth as the gentle rain from heaven/Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:/It blesseth him that gives and him that takes."

Portia is speaking with tones of fanciful romance that has in past been reserved only for wooing....

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