Can you believe it’s Hallowe’en already? And I’m delighted to be hosting Helena Fairfax again. This time, appropriately, she’s talking about her new release, a collection of romantic suspense. It’s a fascinating post, so do read on!
Hallowe’en is the season for witches, spells and superstition. I tell myself I don’t have any superstitions – of course not! No rational person would believe bad things can follow seeing one magpie, or a black cat cross the road, or looking at the moon through glass. It’s irrational to believe in such things. Or so I tell myself. And yet you’d never find me putting a pair of shoes on a table. No way! Someone told me it was bad luck a long time ago. I did it once, and bad luck did follow. So now if I see someone else do it, I’m on edge. You just never know….
In my new release, a collection of romantic suspense called A Year of Light and Shadows, one of the themes is the superstition surrounding Macbeth. My heroine, Lizzie, is an actress, and Macbeth is the play she’s rehearsing with her theatre group. Right from the start, Lizzie feels the play is bringing bad luck. She tells the hero, Léon:
‘It’s well known the play is cursed. For us actors, it’s a nightmare. We have to remember not to say the name “Macbeth” in rehearsals, because if we do, something terrible is bound to happen. We have to call it “the Scottish play,” instead. And if any of the actors forget, they have to go outside the rehearsal room, turn round three times, and knock on the door to be let back in.’
Later in the story, one of the actors does say the name “Macbeth” backstage by mistake – and bad luck surely follows…
As I was writing this story, I grew more and more curious to know why actors are so superstitious about this play. Here are some of the things I’ve discovered.
Some actors believe the spells in the play are actual spells used by witches in Shakespeare’s day. There’s a legend that a coven of witches were so enraged by this, they cursed the play for all time. If you’ve ever been to see Macbeth, you’ll know the witches can be terrifying when they first appear out of the mist, and the words they speak are chilling. It’s easy to see how this superstition grew up.
And it’s true that bad luck dogged Macbeth from the first. Shakespeare wrote the play especially for King James, who was Scottish and a believer in witchcraft – but the King hated the play so much he banned it, and it wasn’t performed again for five years. There are many accidents associated with the performance of the play. Stories go that in the very first production, a prop dagger was replaced with a real one, and an actor died. In 1947, the English actor Harold Norman – who didn’t believe in the superstition – was accidentally stabbed during the performance and later died of his wound. There have been lethal riots, fires, broken limbs, and when Laurence Olivier himself played the part of Macbeth, he was almost killed when a heavy weight dropped to the stage, narrowly missing him.
Of course there are more prosaic reasons why the play attracts such bad luck. There are more fight scenes in Macbeth than any other Shakespeare play, and – since it’s now over 400 years old – it’s inevitable that there will be a number of accidents and tragedies associated with it.
My hero, Léon, certainly doesn’t believe in the superstition. Léon‘s mother was Italian, and he uses a phrase that sums up his philosophy on superstition exactly:
‘Do you know how we say “break a leg” in Italian?’ I shook my head, and he told me, ‘In bocca al lupo. It means “In the mouth of the wolf.” And if ever someone wishes you good luck in this way, you must never say “thank you,” because that is guaranteed to bring you bad luck. You must answer only crepi il lupo. It means “to hell with the wolf.”’
“To hell with the wolf” – I love that expression! It’s perfect for Léon, because he’s seldom afraid of anything…except for Lizzie’s safety – which becomes clear as the story progresses 🙂
The saying “In the mouth of the wolf” comes from the fact that female wolves carry their young in their mouths to protect them. The person saying it is wishing someone safe-keeping. It’s a lovely expression!
Do you have any superstitions, or any particular superstitious sayings you use? Do you know of any curious superstitions in other countries? If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!
Thanks very much for having me today, Jenny. It’s been fun revisiting my stories!
A Year of Light and Shadows contains three romantic mysteries in one volume.
Palace of Deception
From the heat of the Mediterranean….
When the Princess of Montverrier goes missing, Lizzie Smith takes on the acting job of her life. Alone and surrounded by intrigue in the Royal Palace, she relies on her quiet bodyguard, Léon. But who is he really protecting? Lizzie…or the Princess?
The Scottish Diamond
To the heart of Scotland…
Home in Scotland, Lizzie begins rehearsals for Macbeth, and finds danger stalking her through the streets of Edinburgh. She turns to her former bodyguard, Léon, for help – and discovers a secret he’d do anything not to reveal…
A Question by Torchlight
A story of mystery and romance…
The approach of Hogmanay in Edinburgh means a new year and new resolutions. Lizzie and Léon have put their year of danger behind them. But something is still troubling Léon, and Lizzie fears the worst…
A Year of Light and Shadows is available on pre-order on Amazon
and on Kobo
and other major e-tailers. The print version is coming soon!
Helena Fairfax writes engaging contemporary romances with sympathetic heroines and heroes she’s secretly in love with. Her novels have been shortlisted for several awards, including the Exeter Novel Prize, the Global Ebook Awards, the I Heart Indie Awards, and the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme Award.
Helena is a British author who was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She’s grown used to the cold now, and these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in the north of England, right next door to the windswept Yorkshire moors. She walks this romantic landscape every day with her rescue dog, finding it the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings.
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