The Cockpit

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Item Description: 

The crowd in attendance at the cockpit is a varied one, and includes men from all levels of society: from the aristocracy (for example, Lord Ablemarle Bertie at the center) to the executioner in the lower right. Moreover, the medallion positioned outside of the scene acts as the pit ticket which gives the viewer admission into the Royal Cockpit, thus implicating not only the viewer but also the king (the patron of both the sport and the arena). Thus the cockfight, especially in this depiction, utilizes gambling as the lowest common denominator in order to collapse the social hierarchy. The cruelty of the sport is registered not so much in the spectacle of the cocks fighting each other as in the intensity of the spectators’ financial investment in the match—and, paradoxically in the disregard of their attention. That is, most of the men are so engrossed in making their bets and securing their wagers that they barely watch the match at hand. This errant spectatorship finds its epitome in blindness: Lord Albemarle Bertie who presides over the cockfight is blind, and the two men along the bottom of the cockpit have telescopes which are directed at each other, thus negating their purpose of aiding and enhancing vision. In The Cockpit, Hogarth seeks to reveal the cruelty of cockfighting through his presentation not of the violent cockfight itself but of the corruption of its spectators and their vision.