The poem ‘Mercy’ is a sonnet written by William Shakespeare. The poet says that the attribute of mercy is something which every a human being is born with but few intend to adhere very strictly to it, as we can only plead for mercy in our authority for the same. Mercy is like rain which falls off the heaven upon the earth after the scorching heat to quench its thirst. Mercy is a divine quality. It’s a double a blessing because it gives pleasure to both the giver and the receiver.

Mercy is more powerful than the most powerful kings. Mercy is better than the crown of the king because this crown can entitle him to the temporal authority only. He can threaten the people who’re very meek but he would be far from being admired. Everyone sets a high value on mercy. Mercy dwells in the heart of a real king who treats his people nicely and fairly without forcing them to toil hard. Mercy is compared to a drizzle which quenches the thirst of the earth after scorching heat.

Similarly, mercy soothes the aching nerves and heals the wounded hearts. Mercy is the quality of God. When mercy is mixed with justice, any earthly power can appear like a god.


strain’d: forced.

droppeth: drops; descends

become: to suit; to enhance the appearance of someone

crown: symbolizes the supreme power of the king.

sceptre: the royal wand

enthroned: seated(in the hearts of kings).

attribute: quality.

Thinking about the Poem

1. Where does the quality of mercy come from? Who are blessed by it?

Ans. The quality of mercy comes naturally. It is a divine quality which gives pleasure to both the giver and the receiver.

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2. How according to the poet is mercy better than the crown of the mightiest (the king)?

Ans. According to the poet is mercy is better than the crown of the mightiest kings because it earns us the love and respect of the people around. Moreover, the crown of the king is a temporal authority.

3. What does sceptre stand for? How does it affect the kings?

Ans. Sceptre stands for authority. It affects the kings because many a time they do not use their powers fairly.

4. When does earthly power look like God’s?

Ans. Earthly power looks like God’s when it is mixed with justice.

5. How is mercy alone the “sceptred sway”?

Ans. Because though you can make the people work the way you want them to, they will never feel compelled.

6. What happens when mercy seasons justice?

Ans. It appears to be the power of God.

Language Work

a) “It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven”

Mercy has been compared to gentle rain using the word “as”. A comparison using the words ‘as’ and ‘like’ are called similes. However, comparisons not using these words are called metaphors.

Find out the similes and/or metaphors in the poem.

Ans. The similes are: As the gentle rain from heaven; power doth then show like God’s.

The Metaphors are: becomes the throned monarch; sceptre shows the force of temporal power.

b) The poet in the second line of the poem has used the word ‘droppeth’ which in poetical language means ‘to drop’. Find out the similar words in the poem and also write their meanings as used in the poem.

Ans. Blesseth – blessed

Doth – does

Reference to context with explanation

A) Reference to context: These lines have been taken from the poem,

‘Mercy’ is authored by a renowned English poet, William Shakespeare. This poem is a part of the speech made by Portia when she tries to persuade shylock to show mercy on the poor Antonio and spare his life. In this poem, the poet talks about a godly attribute, mercy. The poet compares mercy to the earthly powers and imparts the idea that it is a mercy that is mightier than the mightiest. The poet wants to say that by showing mercy, humans connect to God as they make an exhibition of a godly virtue.


These are the opening lines of the poem in which the poet says that mercy is such a quality that is natural to a human being. It is not produced by effort, it flows out from a person like a benign river. The poet believes mercy to be a heavenly quality that has descended from the heavens and rested on the Earth.

Mercy is the kind of a virtue that comes with double blessings for it blesses the both – the one who shows it and the one who receives it.

B) Reference to context:- Same as above

Explanation:- In these lines, the poet makes a great deal of praise of the virtue, mercy. He, after comparing mercy to the different worldly powers, comes to the conclusion that mercy has the greatest power among all. A crown which is a symbol of authority and grace is overshadowed by this heavenly quality that is christened as mercy. A king or a ruler can exercise his power, his force throughout his life through his powers are limited on this earth only. They last for a short duration but time. The kingdoms where the king is so full of himself thinks high of himself, considers himself and his orders to be the best, are not the happy ones for there, in the hearts of the people, rests not the respect but fear of the monarch.

C) Reference to context:– Same as above

Explanation:- In these lines, the poet places mercy above the royal rule because mercy doesn’t decorate our heads and is not present in the hands either. It shelters itself in the pious most place of a human body i.e heart. Mercy is the quality that is present in God as well. Humans, by displaying this virtue, can thus relate themselves to the all supreme, the creator the Almighty. Humans ought to be just and fair while pronouncing the verdict against the culprits but they must always remember to adorn their justice with this heavenly quality known as mercy.

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Summary and questions of Mercy

Character Sketch of the poet WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s preeminent dramatist. He is often called England’s National Poet, and the “Bard of
Avon”. He was baptized on 26 April 1564 (birth date unknown). Shakespeare was born and brought up in Stratford. Upon – Avon Warwickshire. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway. Sometime between 1585 & 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing a company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

Few records of Shakespeare’s private life survive, which has stimulated considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, religious beliefs and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.

Some of his most popular plays include:

‘A Mid Summers Night Dream’, ‘Hamlet’,

‘Much ado about nothing’, ‘Richard II’,

Henry IV, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Julius Ceaser, etc.

His most famous poems include:

‘Sonnet 29’, ‘All the world’s a stage’

‘A Fairy Song, Sonnet 71’, ‘The phoenic and the turtle’

Most biographers believe that Shakespeare was probably educated at the King’s New School in Stratford. He died on 23 April 1616 at the age of 52 in Stratford upon Avon.

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