One of the most enduring of all dramatic superstitions is the belief that William Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, is cursed. Merely mentioning the name of the Scottish play in a theatre is said to be enough to invoke the hex.
Could it be that all the talk of supernatural influences is mere the product of the infamous ‘artistic temperament’? The truth is stranger than you might think.
Talk of Witches
16th century England was a superstitious place. Belief in fairies, witches, and other magical beings was rife. King James I instigated witch-hunts and even wrote a book about demonology.
According to some scholars, Shakespeare turned to the king’s book, as well as the trial records of Scottish witches, for reference material while writing Macbeth. However, according to other commentators, the bard’s research led him to actual spells and incantations used by real witches. The witches were none too pleased that old Will published their secret recipes, and they were believed to have cursed the play in retaliation. At least angry witches are not something you ever need to worry about when you play Roulette for real money online.
Effects of the Curse
According to the Royal Shakespeare Company, the effects of the curse have been felt since the very first production – at least, that is what the legends say. One story is that real daggers were used as props; something that resulted in an actor’s death.
Another is that the man in the role of Lady Macbeth died suddenly and had to be replaced by Shakespeare himself. An unhappy audience member set a theatre on fire in 1721. Rivalry between actors playing in opposing productions lead to New York’s Astor Place Riot in 1849.
Sir Laurence Olivier narrowly escaped being injured by stage weight that fell, although other actors sustained injuries in other ways during a 1937 performance at London’s Old Vic theatre. While playing the role of Lady Macbeth in 1948, Diana Wynyard fell almost 5m off the rostrum.
During a lead role performance in Bermuda in 1954, Charlton Heston suffered burns to his groin due to heat, sweat, and the kerosene in which the launderer had dipped his tights.
Macbeth was being staged at the D. Maria II National Theatre in Lisbon, Portugal, when it burned to the ground in December 1964. A 1980 production starring Peter O’Toole at the Old Vic received such terrible reviews that the theatre company disbanded. Bulgarian-born singer, singing coach and translation Bantcho Bantchevsky committed suicide during a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera version of the play in New York in 1988.
Countering the Curse
If you blurt the name ‘Macbeth’ either inadvertently or on purpose while in a theatre, the first thing to remember is not to panic. Secondly, you need to leave the theatre.
Once you have exited it, you need to turn around three times, spit, utter a dirty word, and then knock on the door to be let back in. Some of the insults and swear words in the works of Shakespeare include elf-skin, bull’s-pizzle, scurvy companion, puke-stocking, and whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch.