Article Title

Tyranny and Fear in Aeschylus's Oresteia and Shakespeare's Macbeth


Seth L. Schein


This article compares and contrasts how the Oresteia and Macbeth represent the emotional, cultural, and political dimensions of fear, and how these representations help to shape dramatic form and meaning(s) in each work. The focus, in accordance with the overall theme of the issue, is on “the tyrant’s fear,” with “tyrant’s” understood as both subjective and objective genitive: fear by the tyrant of others and fear by the others of the tyrant as a political and cultural phenomenon, and of the tyrannical as a character trait in classical Athens and Elizabethan-Jacobean England. Then it discusses the language and representation of justice and injustice in each play, especially in regard to self-serving violence and pleonexia as fundamental traits of the tyrant and the tyrannical. It will also consider the dynamics of gender and sexuality as manifested in the tyrant, as well as good and evil and the relationship between divinity and humanity in the dramatic worlds which tyrants and tyranny inhabit. Through close attention to the language of tyranny and fear and close readings of particular passages, the article elucidates how Aeschylus and Shakespeare construct tyrants, tyranny, and fear and exploit them for their own poetic and dramatic purposes; how these constructions elicit specific emotional and intellectual responses from audiences and readers to what they see on the stage and on the page.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.