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The Curse of Shakespeare's Scottish Play: Bewitched Macbeth

Updated on August 16, 2015
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The Curse of Shakespeare's Scottish Play, also known as the Unmentionable!

Mad Monologue of a Shakespearian Witch:

Here’s the gruesome but true story of the Curse of Shakespeare’s Scottish play, M A C B E T H. But don’t you mention the name of that play! Don’t read it aloud! Don’t say the word M A C B E T H ! Ever! The Unmentionable will bring bad luck to you all! (Only I may say it loud and clear: ‘Macbeth!’)

Remember 1606, the opening night! The actor who played the part of Lady M. – and don’t you dare to speak out her name! – became mysteriously ill, and Shakespeare himself had to step into his shoes. The Scottish Play was commissioned by King James I, who attended the opening night, and, well, I can tell you, it was a Right Royal Disaster! Fifty years passed, before I could mention the Unmentionable again:


And so, it’s my greatest pleasure now to spit it out, whenever or wherever they play the Unmentionable!


Do you hear it?


Public Performance Permission

For any public performance of this monologue, you need a written permission from the author. Please contact Patrick Bernauw / The Lost Dutchman for more information on Performing Rights Theatre Plays.


tells about betrayal, and the lust for power. You may have seen or heard me, amidst thunder and lightning, together with some other witches, meet and greet Scottish general


and his friend Banquo with prophecies. We proclaim that


shall be King, and that Banquo shall father a new line of kings. Immediately,


starts having Great Expectations of becoming King of Scotland. He writes to Lady M. about the prophecy and when King Duncan decides to stay at the


Castle at Inverness, Lady M. wants to have him assassinated by her husband. Killing his King leaves


totally shaken, not stirred and Lady M. has to take charge now. To secure the throne, they will have to murder again… and again, and again!

Since 1606, death and misfortune is associated with the Unmentionable. In 1667, they turned the dark and gruesome tragedy into a light-hearted musical, with singing witches doing a hell of a witch dance. And so, in 1703, while we were performing the ballet, I got England into the worst storm ever witnessed on the isles. More than 500 seamen drowned, Bristol was destroyed and London severely damaged. The puritans said that the Tempest expressed the Wrath of God, but in fact, it was the Wrath of a Witch exposed to a musical ballet.

In 1794, while performing at Drury Lane, our


sustained a near-fatal stab wound. Passionate fights were enacted with real weapons, and that was the reason why a Macduff had his thumbs hacked off by a fiery


In 1849, at the Astor Place Opera House where we were playing, there was a riot and more than 30 people got killed. In 1937, the director of the London Old Vic got nearly killed in a car crash, and our Lady M. badly bruised. The already famous Laurence Olivier, the star of the production, lost his voice, and almost died when a weight from the stage lights came tumbling down. Lilian Bayliss, founder of the theatre, died on the opening night. Heart attack. A member of the audience got one too, after being hit by a piece of Olivier's sword. The


production starring John Gielgud however, may hold the record. During the final rehearsal, I managed to give our King Duncan a fatal heart attack, one of my colleagues had one too, and another one could not maintain the tempo of the music, while we were dancing round the cauldron; she collapsed and died on stage. And oh yes, I must not forget that our set designer committed suicide. In 1947, our


was played by the promising young actor Harold Norman. In the final scene, he fell on the ground, but instead of dying on stage as rehearsed, he crawled into the wings. 'I've been stabbed,' he whispered. We took poor Norman to a hospital. A month later, he died there. At that time, nobody knew it, but in the dressing-room he shared with another actor, I did some quotes with him from the Unmentionable.


was played several times by the late and great Charlton Heston. In 1953, he stood in an open-air production in the Bermuda Triangle. He had a motorbike crash while still rehearsing. And then, well, he somehow set fire to the rain. Heston had to ride a horse bareback in the first scene. Suddenly he rushed off stage, pointing at his tights, writhing in pain, and yelling: ‘Get them off me!’ – I had laundered the tights, dipping them in kerosene, and the heat, combined with the sweat of the horses, caused serious burns on Heston’s legs and groin. His castle came down burning, as it was planned, but the wind blew flames and smoke into the audience, and caused a stampede.

1954. The Old Vic was on the road again with the Unmentionable. The result? Onecar accident, with a company manager breaking both his legs and an electrician sustaining severe burns. We had also one attempted suicide, and two actresses had an abortion.

1961, the Shakespeare Festival at Stratford, Connecticut. An actor on a bike is knocked over by a car, and one of the witches falls from a stage lift. When Franklin Clover is playing


in the White House before JFK, he gets injured and develops a near-mortal cyst under his arm. And there is again an actor suffering from a stab wound, his killer has never been found. And by the way, the company manager got himself murdered too. In 1970, the


of the Liverpool Repertory Theatre was hit in the eye by a sword, while his Lady M. spread the flu and five understudies were needed.

Etcetera, etcetera.

But hey, we do know why all this shit happened, do we? Shakey William, in all his desire for authenticity, went way too far, and that’s all there is to it. He used genuine black magic recipes and incantations, and like a real Master of Disaster, he created… Me! The foul ingredients of the witches’ brew are in the opening scene of the Fourth Act, and invoke a fatal and irrevocable Curse. In an effort to please King James, who just loved this kind of creepy stuff, Shakey William reproduced an unholy black-magic ritual. And now, whenever


is played, I’m dancing with other witches around a black cauldron, shouting out strange phrases and throwing all sorts of ingredients into our witches’ soup.

Bewitched Macbeth - Audio Theatre


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