Fear is the coessential ingredient of tragedy, and tragedy, since Aristotle, deals with the stories of those who are above us – heroes, kings, and tyrants. Fear, together with pity, is what we, as spectators, are to experience in order to achieve the catharsis of such emotions. Thus, the tragic experience is first and foremost an experience of fear at different levels: on stage, where the action displays the people’s fear of the tyrant and the tyrant’s own fear of them, and in the interplay between stage and audience, where we all identify with those who fear the tyrant, but also with the tyrant who in turn fears them. This introduction to part 1 of this special issue of Comparative Drama entitled 'The Tyrant's Fear' (part 2 52.1 Spring 2018) offers a discussion of ancient positions on tyranny and their reception, through Seneca especially, in early modern English culture and drama. It also identifies similarities and differences between Aeschylus’s treatment of this topic in the Oresteia and Shakespeare’s own treatment in Macbeth, showing how, like the ancients, in this play Shakespeare explores the ways in which a regime of terror is born out of the tyrant’s own fears, and how these, in turn, are strangely one with his own desires.
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