The anecdote recounts an instance in which Theodorus played a tragic heroine so well that he caused the notoriously cruel tyrant Alexander of Pherae, who was watching the play, to leave the theater in tears.
There is an anxiety lurking in the background here, displaced onto the character of the wicked Alexander of Pherae: the fear that impersonation can potentially destabilize not only the self of the actor who plays the character, making him "possessed" or a fraud, but also the self of the spectator who watches that performance.
Here the audience (Alexander of Pherae) is far more moved by the imitation than by the real thing.
The version of the Alexander of Pherae anecdote in the Moralia names the role of either Hecuba or Polyxena in Euripides' Hecuba and does not name the actor, while Plutarch elsewhere mentions Hecuba or Andromache.
The first Alessandro may be Alexander the Great (died 323 BCE), or Alexander of Pherae (killed around 359 BCE), who dressed men up in animal skins and set dogs on them, an unconscious parody of Pasiphae becoming a false cow to mate with the bull.
(24) The impulse towards anger and hatred is inextricable from the impulse towards a separate identity, however monstrous, but equally strongly, there is the impulse towards the break-up of that identity and its loss, which in the case of Alexander of Pherae may be hinted at in his game of dressing people in animal skins.
191-95), while discussing how ineffectual it is to rule by fear, refers to a sequence of tyrants: Julius Caesar, the elder Dionysius, Alexander of Pherae, Phalaris, and Pyrrhus.