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The Comedy of Glamis The Scottish Business or simply That Play are just a few of the euphemisms actors use to avoid mentioning the title of William Shakespeares Macbeth one of the most ill-starred plays in theatrical history Indeed many professionals believe that The Unmentionable another of its nicknames-with its bloodshed ghosts and witchcraft--is one of the darkest dramas ever written If an actor does happen to mention the name or quotes from the play while he is backstage tradition requires him to leave the dressing room turn around three times spit and then knock for reentry Theatrical history is littered with the many misfortunes of those who have chosen to ignore these rites of exorcism Macbeth seemed doomed from the beginning It was first performed before James I a descendant of both the historical Duncan and Banquo who are killed in the play The curse apparently struck during that original performance on August 7 1606 when Hal Berridge the boy actor cast as Lady Macbeth collapsed from a fever and later died Shakespeare himself had to step in and play the role on short notice The play was rarely performed again for nearly a century The day of its London revival in 1703 was noteworthy for one of the most severe storms in English history Because of its blasphemous content the play was blamed for the storms calamities and Queen Anne ordered a week of prayer during which all theaters were closed A catalogue of disasters Over the next two centuries the disasters continued the curse taking its greatest toll after the Astor Place riots in New York City in 1849 During a performance of Macbeth by British actor William Charles Macreadyk supporters of his American rival Edwin Forrest clashed with police Twenty-two people were killed and some 36 more injured Probably the most famous person to suffer the Macbeth curse was not an actor but a US President Macbeth was Abraham Lincolns favorite
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