I read The Merchant of Venice recently and came at last to a line that was the basis of a familiar joke growing up. Portia's impassioned speech, though it cannot sway Shylock to act with kindness of his own accord, is lovely and sweeping:
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.
My father told me this joke as a child, long before I ever read Shakespeare:
A man walks into a tea-shop while on holiday in Marseille and asks the waiter about the specials. He is told that the house serves a delicious green tea that is doubly special because it is brewed by koalas at the local zoo. Thinking this interesting and always up for sampling local delicacies while on vacation, he orders a some. When his order comes, he picks up the mug and takes a big gulp.
Almost immediately, he begins coughing and spluttering. He spits the tea back into his mug and begins wiping his tongue with a napkin. The waiter hurries over and asks if everything is all right.
"Of course it's not alright." the man says. "You didn't bother to strain out this tea. I got about half-way through a sip and started choking on the leaves."
"But don't you know?" the waiter responds. "The koala tea of Marseille's not strained."
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