Searching for Mercy: Punishment, Mercy, and Morality in Early Modern Literature Open Access

Mackay, Lyndsay (Spring 2021)

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This work explores three influential texts (Utopia, Paradise Lost, and The Tempest) and how their depictions of justice interact with conceptions of justice both in the time of their writing as well as modern day. The work also explores how, both as literally presented in the texts and in how audiences can interpret them, punishment, mercy, and morality can be conflated, or in how they differ with each other. While primarily an analysis of the literature, this work also applies the logic of Foucault and seeks to extrapolate philosophical arguments from what the texts present in an attempt to challenge our conceptions of punishment and justice.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Practice and Preaching: Motivations of Punishment and its Place in Modern America……1

Chapter 1: ‘Wild Beasts’: Utopia and the Dehumanization of Wrongdoers…………..8

Chapter 2: “A Place for Repentance”: Paradise Lost, Free Will, and Reformation…24

Chapter 3: “Virtue of Compassion”: Mercy as the Definitive Human Experience in The Tempest……40

Conclusion: The Place of Mercy, Then and Now……………………...……………..63

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