The Curse of the Scottish Play

If you’ve been introduced to theater, whether as an actor or a member of the audience, you likely have heard of Shakespeare’s powerful tragedy “Macbeth.”  And you may have heard of the odd tradition that surrounds this play.  It is said that you should never utter the name of the play while you are currently in it – except while on stage.  But where did this curse come from?  And are there any accounts to back up the suggestion that it is cursed?

Interestingly enough, Macbeth does actually have its share of accounts including people who snubbed the superstition surrounding the play and those who were rewarded by accepting it.  While we can’t say whether the Scottish play truly is cursed, we can share a few of the theories surrounding the origins of this interesting theatrical tradition and at least one story regarding its origin.

It’s said that the witch’s curse in the play is intensified by one of the additional characters, Hecate.  Interestingly enough, the actual origin of this character has been contested by some fans of Shakespeare giving rise in some circles that perhaps this character may have had a different writer who lent a more genuine incantation to the words in the play.  Still others suggest that when it was originally seen it was viewed by a coven of witches who cursed it for stealing their trade secrets – which happened to fit the iambic pentameter.  It’s said that uttering the name of the play as anything other than “the Scottish Play” aloud summons the ghosts of the witches who then start wreaking havoc if they see the play they cursed being once again acted out.

Of course there are other theories as well – and not all have a supernatural origin.  Macbeth is a unique play in both its high level of action and its high production value.  It has been theorized that these could both be contributing factors to the reputation it has for being cursed.  A number of accidents that have occurred over the years while the play is going on have indeed been during the action oriented scenes or otherwise while practicing the action oriented scenes.  Is it possible that perhaps the witches brew of bad luck swirling around the play is not supernatural, but rather simply ambitious producing?

But while a number of the accidents have been the result of the action scenes in the play there are other accounts that don’t necessarily follow this formula.  It’s said if you wish to cancel the curse of speaking the name of the Scottish Play you simply have to turn around three times or speak one of the lines from another Shakespeare play such as  “Fair thoughts and happy hours attend on you” from The Merchant of Venice.

Of course superstitions in theater are widespread as the environment is high stress for actors.  After all, fear of public speaking or Glossophobia is generally held as one of the most common fears of all.