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The Curse of MacBeth

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#1    Gabriel


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Posted 17 August 2005 - 03:29 PM

Is there a Curse on Bill Play?

In 1604 Will Shakespeare in his zeal to please King James I, an authority on demonology, cast caution and imagination aside and for the opening scene of Macbeth's Act IV he reproduced a 17th century black-magic ritual, a sort of how-to to budding witches. Without changing an ingredient, Old Will provided his audience with step-by-step instructions in the furtive art of spell casting:

"Round around the cauldron go;
In the poison'd entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter'd venum sleeping got.
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot"
...And so on.

The ritual's practitioners were not amused by this detailed public exposure of their witchcraft, and it is said that as punishment they cast an everlasting spell on the play, turning it into the most ill-starred of all theatrical productions. It is so unlucky that by comparison to Macbeth's nearly 400-year history of unmitigated disaster, Murphy's Law appears exceedingly optimistic.

Here are some of the gory particulars:

Beginning with its first performance, in 1606, Dear Will himself was forced to play Lady Macbeth when Hal Berridge, the boy designated to play the lady with a peculiar notion of hospitality, became inexplicably feverish and died. Moreover, the bloody play so displeased King James I that he banned it for five years.

When performed in Amsterdam in 1672, the actor playing Macbeth substituted a real dagger for the blunted stage one and with it killed Duncan in full view of the entranced audience.

As Lady Macbeth, Sarah Siddons was nearly ravaged by a disapproving audience in 1775; Sybil Thorndike was almost strangled by a burly actor in 1926; Diana Wynyard sleepwalked off the rostrum in 1948, falling down 15 feet.

During its 1849 performance at New York's Astor Place, a riot broke out in which 31 people were trampled to death.

In 1937, when Laurence Olivier took on the role of Macbeth, a 25 pound stage weight crashed within an inch of him, and his sword which broke onstage flew into the audience and hit a man who later suffered a heart attack.

In 1934, British actor Malcolm Keen turned mute onstage, and his replacement, Alister Sim, like Hal Berridge before him, developed a high fever and had to be hospitalized.

In the 1942 Macbeth production headed by John Gielgud, three actors -- Duncan and two witches -- died, and the costume and set designer committed suicide amidst his devilish Macbeth creations.

The indestructible Charlton Heston, in an outdoor production in Bermuda in 1953, suffered severe burns in his groin and leg area from tights that were accidentally soaked in kerosene.

An actor's strike felled Rip Torn's 1970 production in New York City; two fires and seven robberies plagued the 1971 version starring David Leary; in the 1981 production at Lincoln Center, J. Kenneth Campbell, who played Macduff, was mugged soon after the play's opening.

Of course, no explanations have been given for the seemingly inevitable toil and trouble that is part and parcel of this unlucky play. You don't, in fact, ever refer to Macbeth or quote from it unless rehearsing or performing it. You also don't, as explained to me by countless brave and talented actors from Glenda Jackson to Ian McKellen, refer to this haunted play by name, but instead you call it That Scottish Play or simply That Play; everyone, it seems, will get the message, in a flash.

EDIT: Can I remind everyone to include a source for articles not written by themselves, we don't want any copyright issues on the forum, thankyou,  SOURCE

Edited by Thistle, 17 August 2005 - 05:19 PM.

#2    Great Big Sea

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Posted 17 August 2005 - 03:55 PM

I heard about this on the show Mystery Hunters it was interesting. But I don't think it's a real curse. The only reason why they think there is a curse is because everyone is feeding the idea of there's a curse.

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#3    Moose-Of-Armageddon


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Posted 17 August 2005 - 04:51 PM

No, Gabriel, NO, you keep saying it!

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#4    Gabriel


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Posted 17 August 2005 - 05:29 PM

Sorry normaly im pritty goood at that


Theater supperstitions are great, yes one could fead a curse by accident and have some tragic event follows, some curses could be real though. like the hope dimond.

#5    rickfury188



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Posted 17 August 2005 - 05:30 PM

Very interesting...I hope noone else dies if they keep doing the play. Again...very interesting.

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#6    Nadia B.

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Posted 17 August 2005 - 06:19 PM

If you look at it from a statistical standpoint, Macbeth has been performed so many times throughout the years, that if nothing at all happened, that would be a big deal.  During plays (especially waaaaay back then), anything can happen.  Why do you think the phrase "The show must go on" is so popular?

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#7    StalingradK


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Posted 17 August 2005 - 08:02 PM

I want George W Bush to play the roll of MacBeth tongue.gif

Get in the Puma!!!

#8    Gabriel


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Posted 17 August 2005 - 08:50 PM

for a good show (when i was in high school) the cast  would cram them self in the smallest stage bathroom and turn out the lights and chew mint life-savers too see them spark.

#9    Pontius Pilate

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Posted 17 August 2005 - 09:01 PM

My understanding is that The superstition is not so much about doing the play as about naming it. You are not supposed to mention the title in a theatre.  That is why most actors will call it "that scottish play" or the "unmentionable".

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#10    Jeenuh


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Posted 18 August 2005 - 02:24 PM

I bet if you researched other plays they'd have a lot of problems too :S

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#11    Gabriel


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Posted 18 August 2005 - 05:26 PM

sure all play have their mishaps, but this one has had alot.

Ill leave it all up to  u to deside.

#12    PuffyAmiYumi


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Posted 20 August 2005 - 03:05 PM

Rommie, you watch Mystery Hunters? Me too!

I aint scared.

Macbeth MacBeth MacBeth MacBe---*SPLAT*

Edited by PuffyAmiYumi, 20 August 2005 - 03:05 PM.

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#13    Dracos Nightwolf

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Posted 13 March 2013 - 07:24 AM

Really... In 400 years, you"d think it would have a even higher "body count"... Just saying...

#14    Gummug



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Posted 13 March 2013 - 09:33 AM

Who knows? Maybe a statistical survey, an in-depth study of the chances of mishaps of each play, etc., would help, but I sure ain't gonna do it...I'm too lazy. :P

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