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The quality of mercy is not strained: it drops on to the world as the gentle rain does – from heaven. It’s doubly blessed. It blesses both the giver and the receiver. It’s most powerful when granted by those who hold power over others. It’s more important to a monarch than his crown. His sceptre shows the level of his temporal power – the symbol of awe and majesty in which lies the source of the dread and fear that kings command. But mercy is above that sceptered power. It’s enthroned in the hearts of kings. It is an attribute of God himself. And earthly power most closely resembles God’s power when justice is guided by mercy. Therefore Jew, although justice is your aim, think about this: none of us would be saved if we depended on justice alone. We pray for mercy and, in seeking it ourselves, we learn to be merciful. I’ve spoken about this to soften the justice of your plea. If you insist on pure justice, however, then this serious Venetian court has no alternative other than to pronounce sentence against the merchant there.
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