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.
Probably the most famous person to suffer the Macbeth curse was not an actor but a U.S. president. Macbeth was Abraham Lincoln’s favorite play, and he spent the afternoon of April 9, 1865, reading passages aloud to a party of friends on board the River Queen on the Potomac River. The passages Lincoln chose happened to follow the scene in which Duncan is assassinated. Five days later Lincoln was shot.
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