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October 20, 2010
Curses!

Theater tradition holds that it is bad luck to speak the name "Macbeth" outside of rehearsals or while the play is being performed. Many in the profession refuse to call it by its title, referring to it instead as 'The Scottish Play' or 'Mackers.'

There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence that the production is stalked by some malevolent spirit. During the first ever performance of Macbeth, the boy playing the part of Lady Macbeth died backstage. Legend has it that Shakespeare filled in for him. In a 1672 production, the actor playing Macbeth apparently used a real dagger and killed the actor playing Duncan in full view if the audience. A riot over rival performances being staged in New York in 1849 resulted in the deaths of over twenty people. Three actors died in John Gielgud's 1942 production and the set designer committed suicide. Numerous other reports document unfortunate events befalling presentations of the classic tale of regicide--death, injury, fire, set collapse and the like.

Cynical analysts insist there are logical, non-supernatural reasons for the play's tragic history. But believers know that Macbeth is cursed because real spells are actually cast in the three witches scene. Or that Shakespeare borrowed a few lines from some witches who were so offended they cursed the play. Or that the original propmaster, unable to find a suitable pot to serve as a cauldron, stole one from a local coven. Or perhaps most appealing to conspiracy enthusiasts, that Shakespeare himself propagated the curse to maintain a monopoly on directing the play. Take your pick.

And if some unfortunate soul utters the forbidden name outside of the proper venue? Tradition requires the speaker to perform a cleansing ritual to ward off the evil effects. One cure involves leaving the room or theater, closing the door behind you, turning around three times, swearing, and knocking on the door and asking to be let back in. Variations include spitting over your left shoulder, or spinning and saying "Macbeth" three times before re-entry.

Reciting a line from another of Shakespeare's plays is also an accepted cure. Popular quotes for purposes of exorcism include "Angels and ministers of grace, defend us" (Hamlet), "If we shadows have offended" (A Midsummer Night's Dream), and "Fair thoughts and happy hours attend on you" (The Merchant of Venice).

Masterpuppet Theatre says "Break a finger." ( : { >


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