Graphic Witness: visual arts & social commentary [Sue Coe]
William Hogarth: The Four Stages of Cruelty
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Notes on the images
cruelty: stage 1
First Stage[etching]
cruelty: stage 2
Second Stage [etching]
cruelty: stage 3
Third Stage[etching]
cruelty: stage 4
Fourth Stage[woodcut]
Tom Nero, the boy in the white cap (first stage) is "in the care of the Parish of St. Giles." He tortures a dog with an arrow. One boy tries to stop him, while other children in the scene torment other animals. Hogarth's caption: By the second stage, Tom Nero, now a young man, is seen beating a horse while a bystander takes down his name in order to complain to the authorities of his cruelty.
Hogarth's caption:
While various Scenes of sportive Woe
The Infant Race employ.
And tortur'd Victims bleeding shew
The Tyrant in the boy

Behold a Youth of gentler Heart
To spare the Creature's pain
O take, he cries -- take all my Tart.
But Tears and Tart are vain.

Learn from this fair Example -- You
Whom savage Sports delight
How Cruelty disgusts the view
While Pity charms the sight.
The generous Steed in hoary Age
Subdu'd by Labour lies,
And mourns a cruel Master's rage,
While Nature Strength denies.

The tender lamb o'er drove and faint
Amidst expiring Throws
Bleats forth its innocent complaint
And dies beneath the Blows.

Inhuman Wretch! Say whence proceeds
This coward Cruelty?
What Int'rest springs from barb'rous deeds?
What Joy from Misery?
In the third stage ["Cruelty in Perfection"], Nero has been captured after committing a series of robberies, including the murder of the woman who carries his child. He will be hung. In stage four ["The Reward of Cruelty"], as was often the fate of those executed by the State, his body has been turned over to surgeons for dissection. Some art historians suggest Nero "is represented as still alive, for it was a particular fear of criminals that they would survive the hanging and be conscious at their dissection."

Reference: David Bindman, Hogarth and His Times: Serious Comedy, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997
Also, don't miss Jenny Uglow, Hogarth: A Life and a World, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997

See also the Spartacus site in UK on William Hogarth.
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