By William Shakespeare

From The Merchant of Venice

The quality of mercy is not strained.
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 thronèd monarch better than his crown.
His scepter 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 sceptered 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.

About the poem

The speech is regarded as one of the greatest speeches in the works of Shakespeare. It takes place during the play The Merchant of Venice. Portia, disguised as young lawyer Balthazar, speaks with heightened eloquence to beg Shylock for mercy after traveling from the fictional town of Belmont to Venice.

Mercy and forgiveness are themes that pervade the writings of Shakespeare. It is an example of the esteem Shakespeare held for those who showed mercy to others. Shakespeare presented mercy as a quality that was valuable to the most powerful, strongest and highest regarded people in society, whose mercy could have the most impact on others.

About the author

William Shakespeare (bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English poet, playwright, and actor. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s greatest dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon” (or simply “the Bard”).


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