Talking about different genres of literary works, I have come across many. But few fails to secure any place in my memory, much less, teach me anything meaningful or significant. (Yet teachers in school talk about reading more books and improving both our languages and characters?). Oh well, true or not, I think it differs in many individuals. Personally, I have come across (finally!) a play, which greatly moved me, and eventually changed my outlook on life.
This work of wonders that muscled its way to the number one spot is a play by William Shakespeare, entitled “The Merchant of Venice”. When it first made its ‘debut appearance’ during one of my Literature lessons, boy was it a total bore! Few bothered to pay attention to the teacher, and poor Shakespeare probably wondered why his play did not receive as much attention and popularity as he expected!
Of course, beautiful works as such could not possibly go unappreciated. Gradually, this play began to appeal to me as I started to comprehend the depth of it. Ancient English words did hinder me, but looking beyond them made me feel the true meaning of the words…
It talks about a Jew, Shylock, being condemned in a Venetian society, whereby his money-lending business was seen as some sort of sin. And so, he was subjected to great humiliation and mockery, and outcaste by the Christians, which made him harbour thoughts of revenge and eventually execute them. His yearn of fairer treatment led to a vehement pursuit of justice, where he learns the significance of mercy.
Some of the more recognised parts of the play include the ‘Quality of Mercy” speech and the “Revenge” speech. These speeches are the ones that really taught me a lot on how to look at different situations and eventually changed my viewpoint of life.
I remember one very horrifying incident that took place earlier this year. I was on the way home when I ran into a flasher in the lift. Although he did not do anything violating, but his rash actions had deeply scarred my memories and caused me much fear and anger. After the incident, I was, expectedly, shaken, and was weeping over this misfortune. I did not know how else to vent my frustrations other than crying. Gradually, this misfortune mutated into wrath, and I was very bent on revenge. I refused to believe that his act was the result of a psychological defect, but instead, for the sake of fun. Deep in my reverie, I was hurling expletives at him. I just could not stand the thought of him going scot-free. I wanted him to suffer the torment, twice, thrice or even more than I had. Lodging a police report then became part of this ‘revenge’ plan. Not only would it increase vigilance within my estate, and thus protecting other innocent girls from such an inhuman wretch, it will also satisfy my thirst for revenge.
Like what Shylock said in the play, “Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, senses, affections, passions? …… and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.” My exact thoughts were: If I had wronged him, his humility would be revenge. So, if he had done likewise, my sufferance, by his example, would be, of course, revenge.
The subsequent days were hard to pass; every minute was simply reliving that painful moment. I had to struggle painstakingly with my mind not to re-enact that incident. I was so exhausted, mentally. Words of comfort from my peers could not calm me down. Not a single moment was peaceful! Not until the day when my Literature teacher went into further detail about the “Quality of Mercy” speech. Wordy by word he explained, and slowly I ruminated the whole paragraph of golden knowledge. I pondered over it very carefully. The word, “Mercy” seemed to be flashing across my mind constantly, but for the umpteenth time, I was reminding myself that it was impossible. Yet, I was repeatedly thinking of the advice that Portia (another character in The Merchant of Venice) had given Shylock.
I gave it a shot, after much contemplation and lots of determination. Although I could not be that magnanimous and possibly forgive him totally, at least I attained much peace and was no longer trapped in that dark shadow. I could finally walk out of the darkness, and all thanks to the play. The anger in me had vaporized into clouds of fury and blown away. I really learnt that being merciful was one way I can free myself. Life was no longer, to me, a game of tit-for-tat. It was more of facing such stony adversaries with a forgiving heart, and expelling them with goodness and mercy. In that way, life would be so much more enjoyable and enriching.
I believe, throughout our teenage lives, there will be phases marked with significance and of course, bad memories. Such may be an acquaintance with someone of terrible character.
Terrible character, to me, was defined as someone who betrays and back-stabs his friends for personal interests. To those who got to know people of such personalities, they would probably be driven to fits of agitation even at mere appearances of these so-called brats. They would definitely not pray for any cross paths with the latter…
John fitted this profile aptly. He was known, although not to most, to be a back-stabber. He was that sort of person who goes to person A and befriends him, then goes over to person B and tells him everything bad about what person A said about him. In other words, he was plainly sowing discord between different people. The worst thing is, people did NOT realise it. People who knew warned people who did not, but none of these advice was actually taken to heart.
Unfortunately, I chose not to believe the warnings and went ahead to befriend John. He was rather friendly and approachable, and we did spend some happy times, together with couple of other friends. Gradually, I revealed my inner most secrets to him too. He was very willing to lend a listening ear and was very patient. He also offered words of comfort when I was feeling lousy.
However, good things never last long. Subsequently, other classmates questioned me about ridiculous issues and I found out that John had revealed it to them. At that, I was struck dumb. It dawned on me that John had actually told them my secrets, but worse still, he had blown them up into lies of exaggeration.
Once again, I was struck with fury. The matter was infuriating enough as it was, clearing up the misunderstandings was just as pressurising. All thanks to John! I gave him the cold shoulder and from then on treated him as a foe. To prevent him from hurting more people, I really took the effort to warn everyone. Then everyone started to shun him. He did seem rather lonely to me, and somehow, I must admit I do feel a little guilty about it. But, how was I to forgive him for something so serious as he had committed. I laid my trust on him, and there he was, betraying it. I gave it much thought, and even considered the “Quality of Mercy” speech which I had learnt earlier. Looking back, I saw memories. Memories of the both of us. Times of jubilance, moments of sadness and pain. All spent together. Was there really no redeeming quality about John?
I tried to look at him in totality. It was then when I realised that it might not have been everything about him that I had witnessed. True enough, I had not consider his good side and straight away passed a verdict. A wrong one, that is. As wrong as he might have been, I was not any better. I was too shallow-minded to not have seen that he had a good side too. Also, I was selfish enough to not have shown mercy. I learnt that just months ago and yet, I have clean forgotten all about it. Was that what it was supposed to be? Impossible…
An open heart and forgiving nature, that was what I have been constantly reminding myself. I eventually forgiven him, and now, although we aren’t as close as we were before, but at the very least, we are still on friendly talking terms. Indeed, being forgiving and merciful is a great guide to better relationships with people who appear to be the bane of our existence. This time round, I dare say that the word ‘Mercy’ has been drilled into my mind, held close to my heart, and flowing in my blood. With this, moments of wrath will eventually be seasoned with mercy.
Mercy. A simple five-lettered word. But yet, it means something much more than five hours of heart-to-heart confrontation. It comes unstrained from the heart and can do without words. True enough, showing mercy is impractical and almost impossible for most people. But does it hurt to just render that bit of mercy? It is definitely not going to do as much harm as a lifetime of hatred would. Just remember, mercy seasons justice. You may hate a person and pursue as much justice as you could have gotten, but right till the end, you gain your justice, but leave someone there, suffering, praying for mercy. Is that what you really want? Certainly not, right?
Keep this word close to your heart and let it become part of you naturally. Sure enough, you will find that the world is much happier and more carefree to live in!