Did Chris Rock suffer the curse of the Scottish Play? ‘Macbeth’ theory gains traction on Twitter

An ancient superstition holds that saying the name of the play in a theatre – as Chris Rock did just before Will Smith’s slap – triggers a terrible curse

Chris Rock mentions Macbeth shortly before Will Smith slap

A day after Will Smith publicly slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars, some on Twitter have a theory about what caused the comedian’s misfortune: he said “Macbeth.”

According to an old superstition, one must never utter the name of the Shakespeare character in a theatre, except to perform or rehearse a line from the play. Instead, the monarch must be referred to as “the Scottish king” or “the Scottish lord,” and the work itself as “the Scottish play.” Otherwise, one invites disaster.

And disaster certainly befell the 94th Academy Awards, where an enraged Smith walked onstage and struck Rock across the face, then returned to his seat and loudly cursed him out from there. Interestingly, the moment was almost immediately preceded by the comedian mentioning Macbeth.

“Denzel!” Rock called from the stage to Denzel Washington, who appeared last year in Joel Coen’s film adaptation of the Shakespearean tragedy. “Macbeth! Loved it!”

He then cracked a few jokes about celebrities in the audience, culminating with his “GI Jane” remark about Jada Pinkett Smith, who suffers hair loss due to alopecia. Her husband, Will Smith, then stormed the stage and assaulted him. (Rock has reportedly declined to press charges.)

Some on Twitter, familiar with the curse, felt the comedian had it coming.

“To be fair, Chris Rock put a hex on himself by saying ‘Macbeth’ in a theater,” one wrote.

“Keep… Macbeth’s name… out of your F***ING mouth,” another tweeted, paraphrasing Smith’s tirade.

The Scottish play has a long history of mishaps. In 1849, the audience at one performance in New York City broke into a violent riot, killing at least 20 people. In 1937, Laurence Olivier was playing the monarch when a weight somehow came loose and fell to the stage, crashing within inches of him. In 1953, when Charlton Heston was performing the role, his tights literally caught fire, badly burning him. The list goes on.

Some on Twitter, learning about the curse for the first time, found the theory fascinating.

“Very obsessed with this take that Chris set himself up for failure by saying ‘Macbeth’ out loud,” one commented.

“I actually love the idea that Will Smith was simply acting out karmic consequences for saying Macbeth in the theater,” another mused. “The only take I’ll be validating.”

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