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Merchant of Venice, The

     
Merchant of Venice, The
a play by William Shakespeare about a man called Antonio who borrows money from Shylock. When Antonio cannot pay back the money, Shylock demands the right to cut out a 'pound of flesh' from Antonio's body. A famous speech from the play, made by the main female character, Portia, begins with the words, "The quality of mercy is not strained", by which Portia tells Shylock that he cannot be forced to show mercy (=forgiveness), but that this would be a morally good thing to do.

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