This is one many theatrical portraits by Zoffany, who made his reputation painting the famous actor-manager David Garrick. The picture depicts the trial scene from The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, scene i, probably the moment immediately preceding the climax of the scene when Shylock refuses to listen to Portia's pleas for mercy and Antonio, awaiting the knife, has bared his chest.
The Irish actor Charles Macklin (c.1697-1797) first played the role of Shylock at the Drury Lane Theatre in 1741. To research the character, Macklin studied the gestures, dress and speech of London's Jewish community…
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