Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Quality of Mercy

The Bard wrote, "The quality of mercy is not strained". It's tempting to focus only on the word "strained". But he wanted us to focus on the phrase, "not strained"?

What did he mean by "not strained"?

Perhaps that becomes clear in reading his following words. "It droppeth as a gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath".

He did use the word "strained"as a synonym of "stressed" or "Stretched". He meant "unimpeded".

And it's not a strain or a stretch to conclude that "the place beneath" is Earth as in "us".

Such was his connotation of "not strained". It, the quality of mercy , passes, unrestrained, unimpeded, undiluted, to earth and thus to our benefit, as in "rain" and "sunshine".

And also not to be ignored, the Bard said it is the "Quality" of mercy that is not strained, not mercy itself.

I know, I know, I'm now making too fine a point on it, and am much too caught up in my enjoyment of logic, reason, and the parsing of language.

Today the Supreme Court , (I guess we have to call it something special, and condone an element of hyperbole, in acknowledgement of it's being the court of last resort in our country; but "Supreme"?) stayed the execution of a living being.

I want to believe that decision contains within it an element of mercy, however based it is on law, which today is marketed to the people as being impartial.

Speaking for myself, I experience instinctual physical, gut level revulsion at the killing of almost any living creature, and psychological, spiritual revulsion and trauma at even the contemplation of such killing. Far too often I experience psycho-traumatically induced physical responses to news of the impending or actual execution of a living being.

However I try to think about it objectively, look at it logically, and understand that I am removed from that being, and am not that being, I cannot deny and divorce myself logically from my feelings. I identify with the accused, the living being who is feeling the ultimate terror that other living beings have ultimate power over him, and have decided without his consent that they will execute him at a particular certain time and place. The well known
philosophical, and thus distant and objective expression of this is: "Nothing so focuses the mind as the sure and certain realization that one will be hanged in the morning".

Just writing that statement makes me sick.

1 comment:

Memphis said...

I came across this post because I search the quote "the quality of mercy is not strained" because I'd just written my own post about it on my blog. Your entry is very interesting; you interpret the line as most literary critics would. But what I thought was most interesting was your ending. It reminded me of this book called The Body in Pain by Elaine Scarry. It's an interesting read.