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THE CURSED PLAY

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Did you know that there is a play that is considered cursed? Ever heard of the Scottish play or The Bard’s Play? That’s right, I’m talking about William Shakespeare’s MACBETH.


If you have spent any time around the theater or theater people, they won’t utter the word, especially near a theater. Most actors won’t say the name at any point. Like in Harry Potter…He who must not be named.

But why? What makes MACBETH cursed? Well, I’ve done all the research, so you don’t have to!


During the Sixteenth Century, Scotland was notorious for witch-hunts due to King James VI of Scotland’s obsession with witches and witchcraft due to the violent death of his mother, Mary Queen of Scots. James even wrote a treatise called Daemonologie. James states that the try aim of witches far and wide is to overthrow the king of the realm.


When James became King James I of England, his new English subjects wanted to appease him and his views on the demonic. This was when we got Christopher Marlowe’s famous play Doctor Faustus and Shakespeare’s MACBETH.


If you don’t know anything about MACBETH, watch this hilarious video.


It’s said that Shakespeare researched witches in-depth and even stole actual spells and incantations from a coven of witches and used them in the play. Such as the most famous witch line

Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake, In the cauldron boil and bake; Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog, Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg and owlet's wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf, Witches' mummy, maw and gulf Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark, Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark, Liver of blaspheming Jew, Gall of goat, and slips of yew Silver'd in the moon's eclipse, Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips, Finger of birth-strangled babe Ditch-deliver'd by a drab, Make the gruel thick and slab: Add thereto a tiger's chaudron, For the ingredients of our cauldron.
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon's blood, Then the charm is firm and good.


The witch coven objected to Shakespeare's use of the spells and ended up cursing the play, and the curse continues to plague theaters today.


Here are some examples of how the curse has been invoked:

  • During the first performance (around 1606), the actor playing Lady Macbeth died suddenly, so Shakespeare had to perform it himself. In this same production, a real knife was used instead of a fake one, resulting in the death of the actor who played King Duncan.


  • Shakespeare intended to flatter King James I with his portrayal of him in the play. However, James, I was not too fond of the play at all; he ordered the play be banned. The play was rewritten in a less violent tone and performed in 1703, but the worst storm in English history broke out during the run of the play. Several towns and cities were destroyed, and a half thousand sailors were killed. The original text of the play was restored before the play was performed again.


  • Abraham Lincoln read passages regarding Duncan's assassination to his friends a week before he was assassinated.


  • In 1882, one of the actors accidentally stabbed another actor in the chest on the closing night of a production. The actor did not die, but he was significantly injured.


  • In 1928, a set fell on the actors at the Royal Court Theater during a rehearsal, seriously injuring some of the cast. A fire broke out in the dressing room the weekend before opening day.


  • In 1937, a disastrous situation overcame the cast preparing for the play at the Old Vic. The director and one of the actors were in a car accident on the way to the theater. Laurence Olivier, the actor cast to play Macbeth, lost his voice due to a cold just before opening night, resulting in the play being postponed. A 25-pound stage weight fell and narrowly missed Olivier, and Lilian Baylis, the founder of the Old Vic, died of a heart attack right before the final rehearsal for the show.


  • In 1947, an actor was stabbed in the final sword fight of the play and died from the resulting wounds.


  • In 1970, the actor playing Macbeth died from heart failure during Act II of the play.


  • Most recently, in 1998, Alec Baldwin sliced open the hand of another actor during production.


Maybe this play shouldn’t be done…just out of caution.

And that’s why theater people won’t even say the name. They refer to it as the Scottish Play, Big Mac, Bard’s play, or McB.



However, there is a way to counteract the curse if you accidentally say MACBETH for some reason.

1.) Exit the theater.

2.) Spin around three times

3.) Spit over your left shoulder

4.) Curse

5.) Knock on the theater door to be allowed back in




Do you have personal examples?

Or do you think it’s all a bunch of Hocus Pocus?





Sources:

https://www.rsc.org.uk/macbeth/about-the-play/the-scottish-play#:~:text=According%20to%20folklore%2C%20Macbeth%20was,1606)%20was%20riddled%20with%20disaster.


https://www.shakespearecompany.com/about-us/blog/the-mysteries-of-macbeth/


https://study.com/learn/lesson/curse-macbeth-superstition-incidents.html

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