The main aim of this book is to generate a better understanding of how punishment has provided audiences with pleasure in different historical contexts. The question is understood against the background of the problematic of desire. Sigmund Freud discovered the radical disjunction between desire and enjoyment. Throughout the book, I will talk about the gap between desire and enjoyment. The word ‘gap’ emphasizes their essential irreconcilability, as well as the necessity to bridge the gap, by actions or interventions, to transform desire into enjoyment. The key question is how punishment produces pleasure, and how it does so in relation to an audience. Given the problematic of desire, the question can be seen to be composed of a series of more specific questions, concerning the character of desire, the experience of enjoyment and the dynamic involved. The questions are simultaneously historical and conceptual, and will be pursued in four different settings; ancient Greece, medieval Catholic Europe, early-modern absolutist states, and the post-1968 Western world. Implicit in the problematic of desire is the political question if the desires of the audience can be satisfied in other ways. Is there, deeply entwined with the desire for punishment, also a desire for social justice?