More on justice versus mercy

More on justice versus mercy: Here, and throughout the play, Shakespeare is echoing the biblical views which, in broad terms, are put forward by the Old and New Testament:
  • The Old Testament, while portraying God as loving and merciful, also emphasises the need to keep God's law and the penalties for disobedience. This relationship with God is often called the Old Covenant
  • In the New Testament, Christ demonstrates God's willingness to be merciful and forgive by offering himself as a sacrifice for human sin and so opens up a new way of redemption. This relationship of humanity with God is known as the New Covenant
  • As all people are in need God's grace and forgiveness, so all should show forgiveness to others in their turn. Hence the title of the play, which indicates that those who judge others harshly may expect to be so judged themselves
  • These ideas are forcefully put forward by Isabella in her meeting with Angelo in Act II sc ii. Shakespeare uses this same debate about justice and mercy in ‘The Merchant of Venice'. (See also Themes and significant ideas: Judgement on earth and in heaven.)
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