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Robert Jackson

This is the poem for the week of September 15.
A new interlinear poem is available each Monday.


The quality of mercy is not strained

-Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice


The quality of mercy is not strain'd.
strained=forced
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 throned monarch better than his crown.
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
sceptre=a rod held as a sign of office
The attribute to awe and majesty,
attribute to awe=object (sceptre) that inspires awe
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings,
wherein - in which (the sceptre)
of kings=that kings cause

But mercy is above this sceptred sway.
sway=influence
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings.
It is an attribute to God himself,
attribute to=characteristic of
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
seasons=adds a feature to
Though justice be thy plea, consider this:
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,
should=would
If only justice were considered, none of us would be saved from Hell.

And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
render=bestow
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea,
mitigate=make less severe
Which, if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.
merchant=Antonio, who has defaulted on paying back his loan from Shylock




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 throned 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. 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 same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea,
Which, if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.