The Curse of Macbeth and Other Theatrical Superstitions

Essay by defy.gravity February 2009

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**This essay was inspired by another essay I wrote for academic grading "The Supernatural in and Surrounding Macbeth"It is a long time fact that the folks that grace the stage and the theatres are a superstitious bunch. The superstitions held by these people may seem bizarre to outsiders, but to those in the intricate circle of the theatre, they are serious offences and measures must be made to prevent disasters.

All theatrical superstitions (and many superstitions in general) are based on “the principle of luck.” Many superstitions have a root in religious beliefs, such as the superstition that hot cross buns are lucky due to their magical powers. However, theatrical superstitions are thought to be completely secular and have no religious roots, but the most probable explanations for some superstitions go back to a fear of Satan. While it is difficult to trace the history and background of superstitions, there are several theatrical themed ones that do in fact have basis, even if most people don’t know about them.

It is commonly believed that whistling in a theatre is bad luck. Not only does this apply to the stage and auditorium area, but also the backstage, the dressing rooms and everywhere in the building. In the dressing room, if one whistles, it means that someone will be out of work. It is not necessarily the whistler, but whoever is closest to the door. This superstition has many believable roots. There is a Cornish saying that goes “whistle and I’ll come to you.” This is in reference to the Devil. It is thought that by whistling in a theatre you will summon the Devil, the ultimate evil. Another possible root, and a more plausible one, is that in the 18th century, theatres often hired seamen to be stage hands and the...