Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Curse . . .

Theater folk are terribly superstitious.  You can't say Good Luck to players preparing to do a show -- they prefer that you yell MERDRE!, which is like throwing dung,  at them or that you suggest they break a leg. Most actors have lucky underwear or something to wear on opening night and run themselves through convoluted rituals before a production.

Of all the superstitions that plague the theater, none is as frightening as that of The Scottish Play.  There are those who believe that the very mention of the true title (Macbeth) will cause mayhem to rain down.  Variations of the curse abound.  Some say you can say the M word except in the theater where it will be played while others say it must never be uttered at all.  Some say that there are ways to break the curse while others are resigned to its absolute power.

Gay Smith, Professor Emeritus of Wesleyan University's Theater Department, and author of the erudite Lady Macbeth in America(, theorizes that the curse can be avoided if the production cuts NONE of the witches' speeches.  She contends that Lady Macbeth is, in fact, one of the witches, and her sisters must have their due.

The Straight Dope suggests that there are only two superstitions about the curse -- 1.)that it's bad luck to mention the title except during rehearsal or performance, and 2.)that the curse is on the play itself, not on the title, and that any production is doomed.

The coolest of remedies suggested -- and I've heard it from many sources -- is that Hamlet can save you from the curse.  All you need to do is say, as Hamlet does when he first sees his father's Ghost in Act I, Scene IV, "Angels and ministers of grace defend us!"

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