From Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, in which Antonio literally owes a pound of his flesh to the moneylender Shylock.
pound of flesh (plural pounds of flesh)
- (idiomatic) Something which is owed and which will be hurtful or difficult to provide; a debt owed to someone who is merciless and demanding.
- 1918, Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark, part 5, ch. 1,
- You must be under the impression that I'm one of these damned New England sharks that get their pound of flesh off the widow and orphan. If you're a little short, sign a note.
- 2012, The Economist, 22nd Sep., Indian Reform: At Last
- [...] [Trinamool] Congress [Party] will need to strike deals with other regional allies, such as Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh. Their pound of flesh will be anti-reform, too.