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In this painting, Portia insists that the spectators reflect upon the quality of mercy in letter of the law during the trial scene of the Shakespearean play The Merchant of Venice. For as American preacher and poet Edwin Hubbell Chapin reflected, "Mercy among the virtues is like the moon among the stars. It is the light that hovers above the judgment seat."

The quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, upon the place beneath: It is twice blessed; it blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

The bonds of love and friendship unite humanity where justice merely governs interaction. What men and women do for one another out of the generosity of love far exceeds the commands of justice. That is why mercy and charity are called upon to qualify justice or even set it aside.

Earthly power doth then show likest God's, when mercy seasons justice.

Painting of Portia, a character in The Merchant of Venice.
Portia. 20" x 24". 2014. Collection of the artist. Montreal, Canada.

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Theodore Roosevelt


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