Don't Mention The 'M': You Won't Believe This Spooky Shakespeare Superstition

Posted on 18 February 2015

One of the longest running superstitions in the theatre industry revolves around the William Shakespeare play Macbeth

According to the myth, the superstition states that you can under no circumstances say the name of the play in the theatre building before the play has been performed.. if you do, you will disappear in a puff of smoke never to be seen again (I must be joking, you say, that is impossible!!) 

Well to be the honest, with the seriousness of this tradition and the way it has been abided by for such a long time, would make it seem like someone saying the dreaded 'M' word would suggest impending doom.

The alternative names for Macbeth have been The Scottish Play and The Bard Play. When I was 14 I remember being bemused when I met some actors rehearsing at a theatre I was undertaking Drama classes at, as they kept using the term The Scottish Play when talking about Macbeth. It only made sense once they had finally explained the reasons why they were saying The Scottish Play rather than the plays actual title!

You might be wondering where this superstition originated from, well I was curious too so I've been delving in to some research and discovered some popular theories to why this play has such bad luck, these being as follows: 

1. The play contains a lot of fighting scenes which apparently by legend resulted in the death of the an actor from the original play who was stabbed by a real dagger rather than a prop 

2. Witches cursed the original production of the play due to it's inclusion of spells that in their eyes was a sign of disrespect

3. As a last resort by theatres to keep funding by wealthy patrons, they would stage a production of Macbeth believing it was a real crowd pleaser but this would often prove not enough to save the theatre from financial ruin.

Although I don't necessarily believe in the superstition to the point of frightening myself in to a frenzy, I believe a tradition such as the Macbeth (or should I say The Scottish Play) superstition should be upheld, simply for it's rich theatrical heritage that we should be proud, as many traditions come and go but this has stood the test of time.

Francesca Mepham