A Pound of Flesh Examples
"A pound of flesh" is a phrase that originates in William Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. Shylock demands a "pound of flesh" from Antonio in return for a loan if it is not paid back. These are the lines from the play:
Go with me to a notary, seal me there
Your single bond; and, in a merry sport,
If you repay me not on such a day,
In such a place, such sum or sums as are
Express'd in the condition, let the forfeit
Be nominated for an equal pound
Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken
In what part of your body pleaseth me. (1.3.156-163)
Literally, Shylock is asking for part of Antonio's body as payment if the loan is forfeited. This phrase, however, has become common in our everyday language to mean a steep price, or a payment of great value in return for something. The person loaning the money demands to be paid, even if the payment will somehow harm or bring about the downfall of the person who owes the debt.
Today, when someone talks about demanding a "pound of flesh" it can mean that they are charging an exorbitant price for something, or that they are asking a lot of someone in exchange for something. Further, it could mean that even though the payment would harm the debtor, it is still demanded.
When someone "demands a pound of flesh," the connotation is that it is vengeful, or that it is a threat in some way.
In the end, Antonio cannot pay back the loan, and Shylock demands his "pound of flesh." But the cunning Portia asserts that while the original deal was for a "pound of flesh," it was for "no jot of blood." Thus if Shylock spills Antonio's blood, he will be punishable under the law.
Literary Terms Examples