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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: September ::
Re: 'The Scottish Play
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2209  Tuesday, 25 September 2001

[1]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Saturday, 22 Sep 2001 18:27:04 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2196 Re: 'The Scottish Play'

[2]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Saturday, 22 Sep 2001 11:21:40 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2196 Re: 'The Scottish Play'

[3]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Saturday, 22 Sep 2001 19:10:29 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2155 Re: 'The Scottish Play'

[4]     From:   Suzanne Harris <
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        Date:   Sunday, 23 Sep 2001 22:10:34 +0100
        Subj:   The Scottish Play

[5]     From:   Andrew W. White <
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        Date:   Saturday, 22 Sep 2001 21:19:41 -0400
        Subj:   Re: 'The Scottish Play'


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Saturday, 22 Sep 2001 18:27:04 +0100
Subject: 12.2196 Re: 'The Scottish Play'
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2196 Re: 'The Scottish Play'

There's nothing to support the story that one Hal Berridge died while
playing Lady Macbeth in 1606 (a commonly claimed source of the
superstition), although David Kathman generously shared with this list
his discovery that a Henry Berridge was the right age. However,
superstitious fear of mentioning the play appears to have been active by
1634, when an allusion to it in Brome and Heywood's _The Witches of
Lancashire_ (first printed as _The Late Lancashire Witches_) makes bad
things happen to the speaker. This'll be discussed in my forthcoming
edition of the play in the Globe Quartos series and in Notes and
Queries, probably June 2002.

I'd like to thank those who made suggestions a couple of months ago
about a suitable modern novel from which to crib orthographical
representations of regional dialect. In the event I almost entirely
modernized the speeches in question.

Gabriel Egan

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Saturday, 22 Sep 2001 11:21:40 -0700
Subject: 12.2196 Re: 'The Scottish Play'
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2196 Re: 'The Scottish Play'

Granted, I'm allergic to superstition, but we are in danger of getting
silly here.

Aristotle once wrote that people put too much faith in prophecy.  When
somebody thinks of a friend, then soon sees the friend, they ascribe it
to the supernatural.  But wait, he insisted, how many times do you think
of somebody without seeing them soon after?  Far more often, so it makes
sense to NOT think this is prophecy, but coincidence.

Same holds for the so-called *Macbeth* curse.  The matter of
self-fulfilling prophecies aside, how many accidents are there in
productions of other plays?  A fair share.  But when it comes to
*Macbeth,* some people expect it, and blame it on the curse.  They don't
consider it against the larger background of all kinds of accidents that
happen on stages everywhere.  I'll need to see some statistics that
suggests it happens more with *Macbeth* than with other plays before
I'll believe it.

Achoo!
Mike Jensen

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Saturday, 22 Sep 2001 19:10:29 -0400
Subject: 12.2155 Re: 'The Scottish Play'
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2155 Re: 'The Scottish Play'

Then what do you think about the fact that when I saw it at the Globe,
the stone representing Macbeth's soul (?) missed the bucket and rattled
across the stage?

Clifford

> Not just in the UK.  In Australia, people are extremely superstitious
> regarding 'that Scottish play' in the theatre.  And there is always some
> bizarre ritual if you do say it.  Is this a worldwide thing?
>
> Donna Williams

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Suzanne Harris <
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Date:           Sunday, 23 Sep 2001 22:10:34 +0100
Subject:        The Scottish Play

Many so-called superstitions in are in fact early versions of health and
safety policies.  Real flowers are not favoured because an actor might
slip on dropped petals.  Whistling was used in the fly-tower before cue
lights, so a thoughtless tune might call in a piece of scenery.  I've
worked in a large theatre company for 7 years and not noticed that the
Scottish Play is any more dangerous than any other.  Theatres are
hazardous places to work - people are working at high speed, in the
dark, while trying to look as though they are doing something they're
not.  Everyone I know calls it the Scottish Play or Maccers, simply to
avoid offending anyone who might care.  That's a good enough reason.

Suzanne Harris

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[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew W. White <
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Date:           Saturday, 22 Sep 2001 21:19:41 -0400
Subject:        Re: 'The Scottish Play'

OK, I'll add a bit to the lore:

My first Scottish Tragedy was cursed mostly by the director, who lacked
the requisite ability to get the cast to speak with one voice, myself
most especially (I was singled out by one critic as the reason why the
show stank).

My second; I foolishly offered to help build the set one night, at a
time when my health was rather delicate.  I had a serious asthma attack
the next day, and had to leave the show.

So far, I felt, the curse was more rooted in simple human stupidity
(such as my own).

THEN. . .

A production of _Measure for Measure_ at the Illinois Rep in
Urbana-Champaign.  A director who repeatedly quoted from that infernal
play, to show he had no fear and was above superstitions of that sort.
The show was entered for consideration for ACTF (For non-Yanks:
American College Theatre Festival, a competition that culminates each
year in a showcase at Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center).

On the night when the ACTF adjudicator came for the show, a tornado
touched down in our fair city, at curtain-time.  The show was delayed an
hour and a half, as all of us stewed in our Georgian-era periwigs.  We
didn't finish until midnight, by which time said adjudicator was more
than ready to toss in the towel.  By then, too, we had learned that the
tornado had touched down in a handful of spots around town -- including
our director's house.

Umm, coincidence?

Andy White
Still a bit spooked. . .

The next morning, our we discover that the
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