Now, Shakespeare wrote the
play for James I, who had just taken the English throne in the
wake of Elizabeth I's death, and who was a descendant of Banquo,
who figures prominently in "Macbeth."
Just before the very first
performance, the boy who was to play Lady Macbeth suddenly sickened
and died, and Shakespeare himself had to step in to play the
role. To make matters worse, King James hated the play, and it
would be some time before it began to enjoy its now unquestioned
and deserved fame.
This inaugural bit of misfortune
was just the beginning of the most amazing run of bad luck ever
associated with a play, and it's all because of the witches.
You see, Shakespeare had written
three witches into the thing as a sort of Greek Chorus, a device
to simultaneously move the plot along and send a chill down the
collective spines of the audience.
Unfortunately, as legend has
it, he used some genuine sorcery incantations, and the real unnatural
"powers-that-were" became very very angry. They immediately
cursed the play, and misfortune has dogged it down to our own
For brevity's sake I will dispense
with too many examples, but people have gotten very ill during
the play, people associated with the play have been in horrible
accidents, people have died during the play, people have been
killed during the play, even audience members have died
none other than the late Sir Laurence Olivier was performing
in "Macbeth" when a part of his stage sword broke off
and struck a member of the audience. This member was soon dead
of a heart attack.
Needless to say, theaters that
have hosted the Scottish Play are particularly susceptible to
Finally, it seems that one
need not even be on the Stage to run afoul of the play's Curse.
Nearly 150 years ago, a rather esteemed gentleman was taking
a break from the demands of his office, relaxing on a boat ride
and reading aloud from the Duncan's Assassination section of
It was April, 1865, and the
gentleman in question was Abraham Lincoln, who in less than a
week would himself be assassinated...
By an actor.
So you see, Mom, I really didn't
think it would be terribly wise to tempt fate by perhaps inviting
an age-old curse into the happy world of Book Again, especially
given the example immediately above. I shall have to think of
something else to write about something decidedly less
It therefore occurs to me that
it's worth reminding you again that this is NOT this month's
folklore column it would be terrible if this letter somehow
accidentally found its way into the current newsletter... Can
you imagine the catastrophes that would occur if Book Again's
loyal patrons took such a newsletter home, expecting at best
a mild few minutes' diversion, and instead found themselves face
to face with the unnamable horror of Macbeth's Curse????