Thomas Sully. Portia and Shylock, 1835.

By permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library

Oil on canvas, 29 x 38 inches. The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D. C.

An inscription on the back of the canvas says it illustrates The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene i, lines 230-232. The relevant passage is "Be merciful. / Take thrice thy money; bid me tear the bond." In Sully's painting Portia is poised to tear the bond in two, but Shylock, holding the scale with which he intends to weigh the pound of flesh cut from Antonio, looks harshly upon her and points to the bond. The painting seems unconcerned with fidelity to the text; Portia is not disguised effectively as a judge and Sully is more intent on depicting the merciful, feminine Portia than a "Daniel come to judgment."