pound of flesh
pound of flesh definition by American Heritage Dictionary
Origin: From Antonio's debt to Shylock in The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare.
pound of flesh - Cultural Definition
A phrase from the play The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare. The moneylender Shylock demands the flesh of the “merchant of Venice,” Antonio, under a provision in their contract. Shylock never gets the pound of flesh, however, because the character Portia discovers a point of law that overrides the contract: Shylock is forbidden to shed any blood in getting the flesh from Antonio's body.
- People who cruelly or unreasonably insist on their rights are said to be demanding their “pound of flesh.”
Creditors who insist on having their “pound of flesh” are those who cruelly demand the repayment of a debt, no matter how much suffering it will cost the debtor: “The bank will have its pound of flesh; it is going to foreclose on our mortgage and force us to sell our home.” The expression is from The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare.