Friday, January 18, 2013

Shakespeare in The Twilight Zone: “A Quality of Mercy”

“A Quality of Mercy.” By Rod Serling. Perf. Dean Stockwell, Albert Salmi, Leonard Nimoy, Rayford Barnes, Ralph Votrian, Dale Ishimoto, Jerry Fujikawa, and Michael Pataki. Dir. Buzz Kulik. The Twilight Zone. Season 3, episode 15. CBS. 29 December 1961. DVD. Image Entertainment, 2005.

This episode's title—and the Shakespeare quotation at its close—come from Portia's speech to Shylock in Act IV:
The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath . . . .
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. (IV.i.184-87)
The episode's plot is a fairly-straightforward "put yourself in the other guy's shoes" narrative. An American soldier has been ordered to attack a group of Japanese soldiers in a cave; he inexplicably finds himself to be a Japanese solider preparing a similar attack on American soldiers in a cave. Through this, he learns, in essence, the Golden Rule.


At the episode's close, Rod Serling points toward the universality of the sentiment expressed by Portia:  it is "applicable to any moment in time, to any group of soldiery, to any nation on the face of the earth—or, as in this case, to the Twilight Zone."

Links: The Episode at Wikipedia.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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