Something Wicked This Way Comes: The Curse of Macbeth
On the first day of rehearsal, >troche Alexander Burns, the director of Macbeth, instructed the assembled cast and crew to hold hands and say the title of play three times, followed by the words “Hail King,” and ending with one more “Macbeth.” The idea was to summon the spirit of the dead king, honor him, and then release him. This odd ritual was a concession to a long-held superstition among theatre-folk that that saying “Macbeth” in a theatre will lead to an avalanche of bad luck. Many theatre professionals refer to “The Scottish Play” rather than using the title of the show in an effort to stave off the injuries, accidents, and even deaths that allegedly befall productions of the play. By summoning and honoring the spirit of Macbeth, we hoped to lift the curse before it had a chance to do any real damage.
This curse has a few origin stories. Legend has it that Shakespeare used incantations from real witches in the play. One night, some practicing witches attended a performance, took offense at Shakespeare’s audacity, and placed a curse on all future productions, or so the story goes. Another less superstitious version cites the dangers inherent in the production—the text requires complicated sword fights, frequent low lighting, and sometimes trap doors. In the days before contemporary safety precautions, accidents were bound to happen.
Regardless of whether or not you believe in the curse, the specter of it hovers over all productions of Macbeth. Every theatre professional has their own way of dealing with it. The video below shares some the ways in which the Arden’s Macbeth cast wards off evil spirits.