365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

279. The curse of the Scottish play…is it real?

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In the hilarious Canadian show “Slings and Arrows”, artistic director Geoffrey Tennant is putting on a production of “Macbeth” with the help of his deceased friend, Oliver (watch the show and that will make much more sense). He laughs at the idea of the curse on the play, and not a minute later, a fellow director who says the name of the play falls off of the stage and breaks her neck. “The air is positively thick with irony,” quips the ghost Oliver, as Geoffrey stares in mild disbelief and moderate concern.

Thus began the second season of the great television series, with a curse and a play that is “extraordinarily difficult to stage effectively”. Evidence suggesting that the play is cursed and dangerous to go anywhere near has mounted to astonishing levels over the centuries, and it is hard to find someone in the theatre who doesn’t at the very least take caution about the curse. Even the least superstitious actor may find themselves loath to utter the name of the play inside the theatre.

There have been dozens – at least – of horrifying incidents surrounding the play that suggest something dark is at work. Actors have died doing the production or been seriously injured. There was a Banquo who was actually killed onstage, a Lady Macbeth who took a fall off of the stage during the sleepwalking scene, several actors who have died backstage, and probably plenty of crew members who have been hurt as well. Any half-hearted internet search will yield hundreds of results swearing the curse is real and giving lost lists of incidents that prove it.

Some say that the play itself contains dark magic, activated by the spells the witches chant. Others say that some outside person (or being) may have cursed it, so that whenever it is performed, only harm may befall those involved. Still others insist that, while spooky, the play is no more cursed than any other, but there are simply more recorded instances of misfortune to suggest something dark is at work.

It is up to you to decide what you believe, but I will leave you with one bit of evidence to suggest there may be something to it. Years ago, working on a completely different play, the actors somehow got on the topic of the “Macbeth” curse. I laughed at it, and started jokingly chanting the title of the play. I had only gotten to my third utterance of “Mac –” when a light came loose from the catwalk and crash-landed only a few inches from my feet. Let’s just say that ever since then, I refer to the play as “Mackers”.


Written by Caroline Mincks

July 7, 2010 at 11:25 PM

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