The Curse of Macbeth

Mackenzie Myers, Contributor

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Macbeth is a chilling  play written by William Shakespeare. The English 4 class at Palestine is currently reading this play and has learned that the play has an interesting back story.

The story takes place in the 1100s, although it was written in the 1600s. Shakespeare loved it when Queen ElizabethⅠ came to watch his plays and he knew what she liked, so he was able to please her easily.  Before she died, she had named James VI of Scotland the new King, which made him James I of England. Shakespeare was worried because he did not know what King James would like or if he would like drama at all. In an attempt to please him, Shakespeare wrote a whole new play just for him, writing it in such a way that James would be most likely to like it.

First of all, he based Macbeth in Scotland so that James could relate to it. He even included a character called Banquo, who in real life was the name of one of James’s ancestors.

Next, Shakespeare included a trio of witches because he knew James was very interested in witchcraft.  In the story, the main character, Macbeth, is told by witches that he is going to be Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor, and then King. 

Finally, he centers the story on a situation that James would have understood.  Macbeth is confused by the witches’ predictions because he is only Thane of Glamis at the time and there is already a Thane of Cawdor and a King. In fact, King Duncan has just announced that his son, Malcolm, will be the next King.  When Macbeth learns that he has been named Thane of Cawdor just a short time after the witches’ prediction, he begins to wonder if becoming king is a possibility.  When he tells his wife, Lady Macbeth, about the predictions, she takes it to the next level and begins to plan how the two of them will murder King Duncan. James would have related to King Duncan’s situation because he himself had just survived an attempt on his life during the Gunpowder Plot.

Since its first performance, audiences have loved this play about human nature and murder.  But this play has also gained a reputation for being haunted and cursed because of all the injuries that have happened when people have performed it. For example, in 1953 when Charlton Heston took the lead, he suffered a motorcycle crash during rehearsals and his legs were left horrifically burned during a performance.  Later, they figured out his tights had been mysteriously soaked in kerosene. In another production in a different city, three actors died under mysterious circumstances and the costume designer committed suicide on opening night.

If you want  to know more about Macbeth, pick up the book and read it. You won’t be bored!