Saying Macbeth in the Theatre

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M: Me, I: Informant

I: Yeah, uh I think I can talk a lot. About like theatre traditions and stuff. Folklore. There are a lot of thing that you are not supposed to do because its bad luck in the theatre.

M: Go ahead.

I: So uh like you can say uh Macbeth, unless it’s in context of the play that you are in. Like if it’s in the script, you can say it. And that’s just because um do you want me to go into the history of like

M: Uh-hm (yes)

I: Ok, so um the play Macbeth has been riddled with a lot of really bad luck I guess from past productions, its just known to be a cursed play. So you are not supposed to say the name or it will curse your play.

M: Hmmm

I: You are also not supposed to whistle in a theatre.

M: Oh, wait what happens if  you get cursed? If you say Macbeth, in a play, what happens?

I: yeah, so I mean um normally people will just yell at you, but different places have like. Different ways to counteract you know the curse. I remember like I think at our school you would have to go outside, spin around three times and spit on the floor.

M: Okay, gotcha, gotcha. And if you didn’t do that, what was going to happen. In the show?

I: Just ev- things go wrong.

M: Things go wrong. Okay. Perfect

Context: my informant has been a part of the theatre scene since she was a child and has learned a lot about things that are bad luck and traditions in theatre to the point where she now teaches new actors about the lore as an active-bearer.

Analysis: Like I said above, my informant has been an active bearer for this lore given that she has had to pass down this lore to the younger and newer actors. This is an example of how folklore can come out of authored literature, “Macbeth.” Given how unfortunate and riddled with bad luck many past performances have been of this show, which is referred to as “the Scottish play” when talking about it in the theatre, even just saying the name is said to invoke bad luck and curse your show to go horribly awry. Many theatre members, take this very seriously and will chastise your harshly for slip ups, keeping the folklore circulating to new people and reminding the old ones. Luckily, there are a variety of things to do to ‘reverse’ the bad luck, which almost acts as an initiation to the theatre folklore if they are new. Often afterwards comes the telling of all the times that the Scottish play was mentioned by name in the theatre and how each time things went horribly awry, only furthering the believability of the folklore.