The Curse of Macbeth

Isabella DeCunzo, Secretary

William Shakespeare (also known as The Bard) has created a plethora of famous plays for our enjoyment. From Hamlet to Romeo and Juilet you’ve all heard of one of these plays or spinoffs. But one show that is not talked about as much is the Scottish tragedy known as Macbeth. I have recently read the play and I was very entertained by the plot and characters. And it got me thinking, why isn’t this play mentioned or performed more often? And I have to place blame on the Curse of Macbeth.


It all started with the first performance of the show. Opening night, before the actors went on, the actor set to play Lady Macbeth died, leaving Shakespeare himself to take on the role. This wasn’t the first case of a person dying during a run of this show. In another early production (around early 17th century) the actor playing King Duncan was killed, live on stage when the fake dagger was replaced with a real one. Around 1950, another death occurred when Harold Norman as Macbeth was killed during a reenactment of the final battle of “the Scottish play”.

This play was also the source of many violent audience riots, including the 1721 riot at Lincoln’s Inn Field Theater and the 1772 riot at Covent Garden. A more famous Macbeth riot is the 1849 riot in New York. A long standing rivalry between fans of 2 actors turned violent at a showing of Macbeth at New York’s Astor Place Opera House. The fans left 22 dead and over a hundred injured. 

Why is the show cursed?:

There is no real answer as to why the show is cursed. Many believe it is because Shakespeare used real spells as the witches’ dialogue. As a result, real witches cursed his show for stealing their spells to use for their persecutors’ entertainment. Other people believe that a show running for almost 500 years is bound to have a fair share of accidents. No one knows for sure but no one is taking any chances.

How to become un-cursed:

Due to all accidents during this production, actors are not allowed to speak the name of this play to avoid the risk of cursing their production. And not just Macbeth. Any play, musical, or theater you’re visiting can get cursed. Just by saying its name. Which is why it is mostly known as “The Bard’s Play” or “The Scottish Play”. If you do utter its name, you must follow these steps to un-curse yourself:

  1. Exit the theater
  2. Spin 3 times
  3. Spit over your left shoulder
  4. Utter a Shakespeare line or utter a profanity

Follow these instructions and your show and yourself will be un-cursed. But to be on the safe side, just don’t mention it at all…unless a death scene gone wrong is what you want in your next show. Macbeth could sleep when he commited murder. Would you risk the same? 

For more instances of the show being cursed, check out these sources.