The Curse of Macbeth
Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's more popular plays, and nearly everyone knows about the abundant blood and gore, the witches, Lady Macbeth's ambition, and the ghost of Banquo. However, not as many people know about the superstitions that surround this play. There's a long-standing belief that the play is jinxed, than any company that produces it is courting disaster, and that quoting from the play (or even saying the title) leads to serious bad luck.
There's no doubt that several superstitions are associated with Macbeth. Many actors refuse to say the name of the play but rather refer to it as "The Scottish Play" or even "The Plaid Play" ...view middle of the document...
When the Oldham Repertory Company revived Macbeth for an anniversary celebration, the lead actor, Harold Norman, was stabbed during the final fight with Macduff and eventually died. His baby daughter subsequently suffocated in the theater and his widow went mad. And it seems that Norman had scoffed at the play's curse and had quoted from Macbeth in his dressing room (8).
When the 1961 Stratford Shakespeare Festival ran Macbeth, there were numerous accidents. During the final month of the production, an actor from the company was found stabbed to death in a nearby park; another actor's daughter was killed in a fall; the company's manager was found "tied up in the bathroom of his apartment. He had been beaten, strangled and stabbed several times with a carving knife" (Demcisak 8). Clearly, Macbeth himself is not the only one "in blood / Stepped in so far" (3.4.137-138).
Contemporary theater companies continue to report disasters. Steven Gagen describes a 1995 production in Melbourne, Australia. As director, he had publicly made fun of the curse. Then his wife developed a "sudden and serious valvular heart disease" and two members of the company (one only twenty-six) died suddenly. Another theater veteran tells about a theater history professor who directed a production of Tartuffe and ran around screaming Macbeth's name. By opening night, he'd contracted pneumonia and his wife had left him. By the end of opening night, his lead actor had broken an ankle. A few years later, the professor was denied tenure (Dubiner).
There are several possible causes for the legend of the curse. Some people believe that the witches' spells are genuine and that evil is therefore invited into the theater when Macbeth is produced (Demcisak 8; Gagen). Others mention the old tradition among traveling acting troupes to act Macbeth when finances were bad--the play was guaranteed to draw a big audience but nearly everyone knew that the company was in trouble or jinxed (Cooke; Gero). One of the most logical explanations for the frequent injuries to actors...