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We are given a commanding view of how the use of fear or terror plays into the exercise of power, but it is seldom explored from within or for itself.
For Hegel, the trespasser’s experience of fear, when submitted to the penal code, is always embodied by another person, i.e., the executor of the sentence or the “lord of this reality.” This dread, just as the prospect of punishment that sparks it, is absolute, because alien, and is equated with a fear of death, the ultimate fear.
The penal law offers a moral horizon and an incentive to moral betterment; it rests upon a belief in deontological and teleological system as it lays the foundations for duty-driven and purpose-driven action but it does not lay the basis for a truly ethical life in Hegel’s view.
In the contemplation of one’s fate, on the other hand, life itself becomes its own enemy.
Macbeth, the eponymous protagonist of Shakespeare’s most clearly “frightful” tragedy (in that it most explicitly refers to fear than any other in the Shakespearean corpus, rendering with great precision down to the physiological symptoms of fear), stands to a certain extent for both of these types of fear and of punishment.
Boucheron asks whether the frescoes will in effect ward off fear – “le danger sera-t-il écarté?
” – and immediately responds in the negative to his own question: “les images n’ont pas ce pouvoir […] la force politique des images consiste précisément à ne rien dérober au regard” (“images do not have that power […] the political power of images consists precisely in concealing nothing from the eye,” my translation).To be furious, Is to be frighted out of fear; and in that mood The dove will peck the estridge; and I see still, A diminution in our captain’s brain Restores his heart: when valour preys on reason, It eats the sword it fights with.(3.13.227) The description of Antony by Enobarbus curiously echoes the glorious portrait the captain gives of Macbeth in the liminal lines of the play, suggesting perhaps a secret terror that has yet to be externalized and dramatized in the passage from the heroic account to the direct staging of Macbeth’s troubled spirit: What frightens Enobarbus into treason or desertion is in fact Antony’s more awesome fear.fear, using a variety of critical approaches that yield different responses to this question.The Foucauldian emphasis on the mechanics of the exercise of power and the awesome display of chastised bodies tends to by-pass the examination of fear as a mood and experience of the punished trespasser, considering it instead as an instrument put to the service of the body politic.He does not attempt to hedge himself against the same type of chastisement as the one just undergone before his eyes by Thidias, Caesar’s servant, violently whipped by Antony and Cleopatra for bringing bad news.Ironically, Enobarbus will not be punished for deserting his master but kill himself for not having been punished by his master.Hegel’s distinction between two types of fear, the fear of the penal code or moral law, and a deeper fear of oneself or “fate as punishment,” enables us to probe deeper into the experience of fear, the moral imagination, and the process leading from fear and punishment to a greater degree of self-consciousness.This paper argues, however, that the implications of Shakespeare’s dramatic treatment of fear are best understood when read in light of early modern theological literature and its attempts to finely rationalize the experience of fear.In a world ridden with what may seem to be new fears, we are tempted to turn to Shakespeare’s plays as we turn to a sacred text, hoping to find providential lessons and words of comfort, for Shakespeare too lived in a time rife with religious tensions and anxieties about plots and treasons – we desire Shakespeare to be both a prophet and “our contemporary.” Perhaps it would be fairer to say that as scholars, eager to exert just a little more critical distance than that, we turn to Shakespeare in the same way as Patrick Boucheron recently turned to Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s frescoes of good and bad government in the Palazzo Pubblico of Siena, enquiring whether they might teach us how to “avert fear” – “ For Boucheron, the fires, the unruly soldiers, the desiccated fields that are glimpsed on the western wall, supposedly depicting the effects of bad government – or the antithesis of the Republic – in fact translate and materialize the anxiety of the Republic – the slow, inevitable subversion of civic values from within.bespeak the diseased state of other common weal about to turn common woe.