One can identify an ‘aesthetics’ of violence in any representation of a violent act where form and textuality are essential elements to the experience to the representation. But this aesthetics is little understood. It has a history; it has a geographic distribution; and it has a philosophy too. In this study, looking at literary texts, film and graphic art, it is tried to account for the meaning of violence as an object of aesthetic experience, and a theme of artistic invention. One of the basic paradoxes underlying the aesthetics of violence is that fictional representations make the experience of violence into a form of play; but this is clearly a very serious kind of play, whose values need to be interrogated, and whose centrality to the modern imagination needs to be placed in a practical as well as a theoretical context.