Manchester Art Gallery

The Defeat of Shylock

Object description

Scene from Act IV, scene i of The Merchant of Venice, depicting the trial of Shylock by Portia. In the centre of the courtroom sits the judge in yellow robes with advisors either side of him and the court scribe at a desk immediately below. To the left of the desk stands Shylock, his head downcast, holding a dagger and facing Portia; Shylock stands to the right giving his evidence. At the feet of two men on the left, a pile of overflowing money bags are layed on the ground. Citizens of Venice stand in small groups to the left and right discussing the proceedings. Paintings are visible on the back wall of the courtroom.

Display label

The Defeat of Shylock 1850 James Clarke Hook 1819-1907 Oil on panel The scene is from Act IV scene i of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Portia, disguised in red robes as a male judge, is informing Shylock (on the left) that he may, in fulfilment of his bond, cut a pound of flesh from the hero Antonio, but that if he sheds a drop of blood in so doing, all he owns will be confiscated by the state. The character in the centre is Gratiano, who mocks Shylock by repeating to him his own words in praise of the young judge. Hook’s rich colouring and lively grouping of figures are inspired by Venetian painting – fitting for a story set in Venice. Sir Joseph Whitworth bequest 1896.11