Artwork Title: The Hireling Shepherd - Artist Name: William Holman HuntArtwork Title: The Hireling Shepherd - Artist Name: William Holman Hunt

The Hireling Shepherd, 1851

William Holman Hunt

The subject of The Hireling Shepherd was actually taken from William Shakespeare's King Lear. In the play, the character Edgar sings a song about a shepherd neglecting its flock, and Hunt used the song as an inspiration for his work. Hunt actually wrote a letter on this subject that I found on Shakespeare Illustrated-- that connects 19th century paintings to their roots in Shakespeare's work. Shakespeare's song represents a Shepherd who is neglecting his real duty of guarding the sheep: instead of using his voice in truthfully performing his duty, he is using his "minikin mouth" in some idle way. He was a type thus of other muddle-headed pastors who instead of performing their services to their flock--which is in constant peril--discuss vain questions of no value to any human soul. My fool has found a death's head moth, and this fills his little mind with forebodings of evil and he takes it to an equally sage counsel... []


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