“Double, double, toil and trouble…’Posted: Friday 10 June 2011
We have been getting a lot of questions about the ‘Macbeth curse’ which we reference in our Macbeth Intensive show, so I’ve done a little research (a.k.a Google) and found out some very interesting things about how the curse came about and what things have gone wrong. Now, I can’t verify any of this, but it’s still pretty cool…
Apparently the whole thing began because Shakespeare actually used ‘authentic’ witches chants in his play; as punishment real witches put a curse on the show, condemning it for all time. There are many reported accidents said to have been the result of the Macbeth curse, I have noted a few of the ones that I found most fascinating…
The curse took effect immediately, in the first production of Macbeth, on August 7, 1606, Hal Berridge, the boy playing Lady Macbeth, became feverish and died backstage. William Shakespeare himself is said to have stepped in to take over the role.
In 1672, in a production taking place in Amsterdam, the actor playing Macbeth substituted his blunt stage dagger for a real one and actually killed his co-actor playing King Duncan in front of a live audience. (…that is seriously messed up!)
In 1934, Malcolm Keen was in the middle of playing Macbeth, when he inexplicably turned mute on stage! Then his understudy developed a high fever and had to be hospitalized.
Sir Laurence Olivier was lucky enough to escape a 25 pound stage weight when it came loose and crashed down with in an inch of where he was standing, but then in a subsequent performance, his sword broke and went flying into the audience wounding one man. In the same production both the director and the actress playing Lady Macduff were involved in a car accident on the way to the theatre AND the proprietor of the theatre had a heart attack and died during their dress rehearsal (…that production seemed particularly cursed!)
In a 1942 staging, with John Gielgud as Macbeth, three actors – two witches and Duncan – died, and the set designer committed suicide (…at this point I’m starting to get a little freaked out myself !!)
In 1948 an actress playing Lady M., Diana Wynyard, sleepwalked off the set and fell 15 feet (…luckily for me, I don’t have to perform that scene, Teresa does!!!)
And these ‘incidents’ were only the tip of the iceberg!
Now, if you are superstitious, don’t worry, there is a remedy if someone is foolish enough to tempt fate and utter the ‘M’ word in a theatre. What you have to do is send the culprit out of the space and close the door behind them; then they have to spin round three times, say a dirty word (can be substituted with a good spit), then they knock on the door and have to ask to be let in. Now, if you don’t have the time to go through that ritual there is a loop hole, you can counteract the curse if you quote the line from Hamlet Act1 Scene4 “Angels and ministers of grace defend us!”
I’m not big believer in the supernatural or hocus pocus and maybe the higher amount of recorded accidents that seem to take place around productions of Macbeth is really only in proportion to that fact that it’s one of Shakespeare’s most performed plays, so of course there are going to be more opportunities for things to go wrong….but my question is, is it worth the risk?
Would you ever look into a mirror and say ‘Candy man’ 5 times? Or actively go looking for ladders to walk under????