February 12th, 2009
03:33 PM ET
11 years ago

In Ford’s Theater, Obama invokes forbidden word

 On a trip to Ford’s Theater, site of President Lincoln’s assassination, Obama paid tribute to the 16th president’s ability to recall passages of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth.

On a trip to Ford’s Theater, site of President Lincoln’s assassination, Obama paid tribute to the 16th president’s ability to recall passages of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - It’s a word so fraught with superstition, its very mention can send grown men ducking for cover — and President Obama used it Wednesday night.

Macbeth.

On a trip to Ford’s Theater, site of President Lincoln’s assassination, Obama paid tribute to the 16th president’s ability to recall passages of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth. And with that reference, he unwittingly ventured into what many theater hands believe to be dangerous territory: any mention of the name of the doomed Scottish king in a theater outside of a performance is considered verboten by many actors, who believe it will result in a cursed production — including a greater possibility of injury, bankruptcy, even death.

So does Obama have anything to fear from uttering the unluckiest word in what may be the unluckiest theater in American history? Theater-goers can relax: Many stage afficianados believe that the prohibition only applies to performers or theater hands, and non-actors have nothing to worry about.

But in the near future, the president might want to stick to movies. Just to be on the safe side.


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (318 Responses)
  1. christopher menges

    Since this is hardly news worthy, I'll comment on something else: Ed Rollins lame posting on Obama's address. Obama's still a stranger, he says? Uh, no, actually he's probably now the most well known man on earth, but who knows who any of the Republicans are right now who are opposing this bill? Who knows any of the Democrats accused of inflating the stimulus? Unless you're a news junkie, not really.
    No, its the strangers in Washington who need to be exposed, who are out of touch with average Americans. Obama is the guy to do it. He's got to wrangle in the house Dems and keep the bipartisan pressure on the Repubs. He's done a good job so far. If I were Ed, I'd be screaming at the Repubs who are scared of being cast in the extremist shock jock rhetoric as socialist, being cowed by narrow ideologues in the party when they really do believe in some gov't intervention. The Repubs are in danger of becoming an extremist minority party.
    And finally, Ed, for god sakes, everyone knows we're borrowing money from China, and have been for awhile before this happened. Obama doesn't need to say the obvious. No, all Ed's got is a subtle "sow the tiniest seeds of doubt" argument regarding Obama because he's got nothing for his side of the aisle.

    February 12, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  2. BxGrrl

    Boy, you'll try to make an issue out of anything.

    February 12, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  3. Connie from Indiana

    David in Indiana said it all, trust in God. I believe President Obama does.
    It will give the pundits something to talk about to night. LOL!

    February 12, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  4. jerry

    The forbidden word in this article is not Macbeth, but intelligence. CNN's stupidity is astounding. It's like they're taking us back to an age of superstition, magical thinking, and plain old ignorance. Even tongue in cheek this would be un-newsworthy.

    February 12, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  5. Mike

    Who cares if "this isn't news." It's mildly entertaining and lighthearted (hopefully) compared to most of the other stories on here. Enjoy it, then move on. If you haven't noticed, CNN and other news networks have a sense of humor once in a while. Deal with it.

    February 12, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. JKT

    "Unluckiest theater"?? What JWB did to Lincoln there had nothing to do with luck–it was a deliberate act.

    February 12, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  7. DCMixmstr

    As Stevie Wonder once sang, "if you believe in things that you don't understand, then you'll suffer...Superstition ain't the way"

    February 12, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  8. We Are The One

    *yawwwwwwwwwn* – slow news day at CNN!!!

    is it Friday yet?

    February 12, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  9. Arun

    Thanks for this. I was waiting for this article all day. People are dying and you are telling me the curse of "Macbeth". Really, thanks.

    February 12, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  10. DK

    I wasted 2 minutes of my life reading this stupid story.

    February 12, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Please tell me how this is political news.

    February 12, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  12. Watcher

    No need to worry here, since Obama's no actor.
    He's not even a very good liar.

    February 12, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  13. DJW

    Ridiculous!!! This is the fear that the Europeans put in their people long time ago I see the apple doesn't fall far from it's tree!!!

    February 12, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  14. Maggie

    Oh, you never say the word "Macbeth" in a theater.

    The only way to reverse the bad luck that doing this will bring is to exit the theater, spin around three times saying a profanity and then ask permission to return inside.

    Now, for all the naysayers out there - superstition is a source of amusement for a lot of us. Let us have our fun when someone does something that is considered superstitious.

    February 12, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  15. Dylan

    David in Indiana, god IS superstition.

    February 12, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  16. Rich

    Who cares?

    February 12, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  17. Dems be dopes

    Good thing Nobambo can read the teleprompter

    February 12, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  18. Peter

    I enjoyed the celebration on cnn.com live.

    Thank you mr.President!

    February 12, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  19. a little sad

    @Simon February 12th, 2009 12:11 pm ET

    President Obama can relax. The "prohibition" on actually saying "Macbeth", when referring to Shakespeare's play, applies only to actors and those professionally engaged on producing it on stage, who always refer to it as "The Scottish play". It doesn't apply to academics teaching it either, since there is no such oeuvre in the canon of Shakepeare's dramatic works as The Scottish Play.

    ********************************
    I don't think that this subject really belongs on the ticker, but I do love the use of the word "oevre".

    🙂

    February 12, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  20. Crazy Cat Lady

    Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

    >Looking ahead to a slow, painful economic recovery...........

    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
    The way to dusty death.

    >Sure sounds like the last eight years, doesn't it?

    Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
    And then is heard no more;

    >Is that you, George?

    it is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.

    >Ah, Fox News is covering politics again. Or is that O'Reilly and Limbaugh commentating?

    February 12, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  21. Irish-American

    AND THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE NEWS?????????????????

    I'M TRYING TO FIND HELP WITH MY MORTGAGE, GODDAMNIT!

    February 12, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  22. sha

    You're really digging for stories these days CNN! This is ridiculous. I think we have enough going on in the country and the world that you don't have to resort to dumb stories with no relevance to anything.

    February 12, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  23. aware

    No one ever accused this guy of being wise – just arrogant, obfuscating and politically expedient! 😦

    February 12, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  24. Rob

    Are you kidding me? This is not news?

    As a stage manager, I'm worried for America.

    February 12, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  25. a little sad

    On the other hand, it would help if I could also spell "oeuvre". Sorry!

    February 12, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
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