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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: February ::
Re: Pound of Flesh
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0353  Friday, 18 February 2000.

[1]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Feb 2000 13:30:11 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0342 Pound of Flesh

[2]     From:   Joseph Tate <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Feb 2000 11:33:04 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0342 Pound of Flesh


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Feb 2000 13:30:11 -0500
Subject: 11.0342 Pound of Flesh
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0342 Pound of Flesh

> A colleague of mine, teaching _Merchant of Venice_, was recently asked
>by a student where the phrase "pound of flesh" came from.  Neither she,
>nor I, nor the other Shakespearean in the department could summon its
>etiology other than to hazard that it perhaps came from Shakespeare's
>own imagination.  Can anyone shed any light on this?

It most likely comes from the play's putative source, Giuseppe
Fiorentino's Il Pecorone, of which there's a translation in the new
Arden edition of the play.

Carnally,
David Evett

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Tate <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 17 Feb 2000 11:33:04 -0800
Subject: 11.0342 Pound of Flesh
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0342 Pound of Flesh

Shakespeare's "pound of flesh" may have come from declamation 95 in
Lazarus Piot's The Orator, a rhetoric manual  published in London by
Adam Islip in 1596.  Piot's work was a translation of Alexandre van den
Busche's work in French, Epitomes de cent histoires tragicques, a copy
of which is in the British Museum.  W. S. Howell's Logic and Rhetoric in
England, 1500-1700 (New York: Russell and Russell, Inc., 1961) provides
a brief account of declamation 95 which "concerns a Jew who lent a
Christian money, and was promised a pound of flesh from the Christian's
body if the debt was not paid on time" (337).

The text of Piot's translation contains a hundred such declamations
which were used as composition models for students to imitate in their
rhetorical training and each "contains a speech made in accusation and a
speech made in reply" (336).  My library catalogue shows it is available
on microfilm, but I've yet to look at it myself.
 

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