Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: February ::
Re: The Scottish Play
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0084. Wednesday, 8 February 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Jon Enriquez <ENRIQUEZJ@GUVAX.BITNET>
        Date:   Tuesday, 07 Feb 1995 09:50:32 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0076  Re: The Scottish Play
 
(2)     From:   Jim Hamilton <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 7 Feb 95 13:52:00 CST
        Subj:   Another tangent on superstitions
 
(3)     From:   Anna Joell Goodman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 7 Feb 1995 17:14:37 -400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0072  Q: The Scottish Play
 
(4)     From:   Roger D. Gross <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 7 Feb 1995 16:35:55 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   The Scottish Play
 
(5)     From:   Tom Dale Keever <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 08 Feb 95 01:10:01 EST
        Subj:   The Macbeth curse
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jon Enriquez <ENRIQUEZJ@GUVAX.BITNET>
Date:           Tuesday, 07 Feb 1995 09:50:32 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0076  Re: The Scottish Play
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0076  Re: The Scottish Play
 
I was always taught that the Scottish curse dates back to the earliest indoor
production of the play.  In those days, of course, an indoor production was
unheard of.  That production was beset with elaborate difficulties -- fires,
smoke, stuff collapsing -- and the legacy remains today.
 
Jon Enriquez
Georgetown University

 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jim Hamilton <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 7 Feb 95 13:52:00 CST
Subject:        Another tangent on superstitions
 
I've been digging recently in search of information on a particular theatrical
tradition.  While on the hunt last week, I ran across Richard Huggett's
*Supernatural on Stage*, which devotes a chapter to the curse of the Scottish
Play.  A number of associated disasters are recounted.  Some companies, it
seems, refuse even to allow reuse of their Scottish props in other productions.
 
If I may wander just a bit, I wonder if anybody on the list is familiar with
the tradition of the ghost light.  That's the thing I was looking for when I
found Huggett's book.  Does anyone out there work with a theatre that uses a
ghost light?  Is there any tie to Shakespeare?
 
Jim Hamilton
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Anna Joell Goodman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 7 Feb 1995 17:14:37 -400
Subject: 6.0072  Q: The Scottish Play
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0072  Q: The Scottish Play
 
In response to Bill Schmidt's enquiry about theatrical superstitions
surrounding "The Scottish Play", I would respond that those superstitions are
not only alive--they are thriving.
 
It has been my experience in working in the theatre (as an actor, as a
technician, as a stage manager, and as an associate director of p.r. and
marketing) that the play is definitely out-of-bounds backstage.  Whether the
theatre in question is academic, professional, or what-not, mention of the play
is forbidden behind the scenes of ANY production--be it Shakespeare or no.
 
An interesting aside--the only production on which I have ever worked when the
play was mentioned backstage featured numerous sound and set glitches, one
actor breaking a leg, a dancer with a stress fracture, and a stage manager with
a sprained ankle--all on the night in question!
 
--Anna J. Goodman
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger D. Gross <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 7 Feb 1995 16:35:55 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        The Scottish Play
 
Those interested in the Scottish Play superstition will find lots of history
and anecdote in these sources:
 
-  Richard Huggett,  THE CURSE OF MACBETH AND OTHER THEATRICAL SUPERSTITIONS:
AN INVESTIGATION,  Clippenham: Picton, 1981
 
-  Margaret Lucy, SHAKESPEARE AND THE SUPERNATURAL, A BRIEF STUDY OF FOLKLORE,
SUPERSTITION AND WITCHCRAFT IN MACBETH, MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, AND THE
TEMPEST, Liverpool: Shakespeare Press, 1906
 
-  Cumberland Clark, SHAKESPEARE AND THE SUPERNATURAL (pt. 1 about
superstition)  London: Williams and Norgate, 1931
 
My personal eerie example:  listening to the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcast
of the Verdi MACBETH.  First interval, they're playing the usual Metropolitan
Opera quiz.  It goes on and on and on.  I kill time by laughing with my
colleague about the naivete of the Scottish Play superstition.  Finally the
announcer comes on to say the performance has been cancelled because a patron
has fallen out of the upper balcony to his death in the orchestra.
 
It's not enough to make me a believer but I'm less likely to be openly scornful
about the superstition.  Read THE CURSE OF MACBETH; the sheer volume of
terrible anecdote is impressive.
 
Finally, I find that actors over forty all know the superstition.  Most younger
actors never heard of it.  We don't say the play's name in our theatre but we
all know it's just a game.  (At least we all SAY it is.)
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Dale Keever <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 08 Feb 95 01:10:01 EST
Subject:        The Macbeth curse
 
In twenty years onstage I have shed my own blood only twice - in my two
appearances in MACBETH.  In Michigan, playing Ross, I caught a flying
lead-weighted goblet, meant for Banquo's ghost,  in the side of the head.  It
knocked me senseless and the wound would have been stitched if I wasn't
determined to do my next scene with Lennox. Playing Macbeth here in NY at
Bouwerie Lane Theater one matinee I parried MacDuff's most energetic down-swing
- the one we had found would throw sparks off our steel blades if we did it
hard enough - and caught the edge of his machete across my knuckles. Only my
insistence on wearing heavy leather gloves for the battle scene saved my index
finger, which healed a bit twisted to one side and retains its deformity to
this day.  Both wounds bled copiously and left visible scars.
 
I retain a low tolerence for superstitious nonsense in all its forms, and if
anyone ever again offered me a role in MACBETH (which title I speak aloud
whenever necessary, in or out of theaters) I would accept without hesitation.
But I would be very careful.....
 
A good friend worked for Penn and Teller on their last Broadway production and
told me about their nightly routine.  Before the curtain opens Teller strolls
about backstage whistling a few of his favorite tunes, Penn opens a copy of
MACBETH and declaims a speech or two, and both go about to the backstage crew
and say, "Good luck!" or "Have a good show!"
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.