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Justice versus Mercy (The Merchant of Venice)

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This is a very difficult question, because both of these things play an important role in our world. Imagine a world without justice. People would get away with anything, with no consequences to fear, and with nothing that their victims can do about it. There would be no such thing as fairness, with people treated differently for no good reason. Now imagine a world without mercy. Here people who have done bad things, but truly and sincerely regret them, and are willing to put all their effort into becoming better people, will be shown no compassion or leniency. We would lose what makes humans human; morals.

In the play The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare, an important and major theme is the conflict between justice and mercy. This is seen best in the courtroom scene. Here Shylock has the legal right to remove a pound of flesh from Antonio, with whom he made a bond. While seen from the point of view of justice, Antonio must suffer the consequences of not fulfilling his part of a bond he himself willingly agreed to, and if this doesnt happen Shylock would be treated very unfairly. Yet from the point of view of mercy, we must ask ourselves if Antonio deserves to die, especially under the circumstances in which the loss of his fortune was not his fault and the reason he made the bond in the first place was to help a friend. It seems like Shylock has never heard of compassion.

When asked which of the two is more important, I would choose to say that mercy is more important. This is because I believe we should not neglect our humanity and because if I was in Antonios position, I would truly be appreciative and react wisely to mercy. However this is not to say that the world can survive without some form of justice.

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