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Author Topic: Famous Curses from Fiction  (Read 21398 times)
Altair
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« Topic Start: September 15, 2007, 08:38:47 am »

In honor of the late, great Luciano Pavarotti, I was listening to a recording of my favorite opera, Verdi's Rigoletto, in which Pavarotti sang the role of the Duke. (It's an amazing performance, BTW.) A curse sets the action in motion for the opera, and that (along with something I'm writing) got me thinking...

...In what other famous works (books, movies, art, opera, whatever) do curses figure prominently?

Aside from the aforementioned Rigoletto, Tolkein's Silmarillion has the Doom of Mandos that was pronounced on the Noldor. And doesn't Alberich curse the ring in Das Rheingold? Is that just in the opera, or is that part of Norse mythology?

And, in a separate but related category, there are famous curses in religion. (It would be wrong to call it "fiction," since to somebody somewhere it's truth...or else it wouldn't be religion.) I'm not familiar enough with the Judeo-Christian bible to know offhand, but I'm sure there are some major curses in there. And all those Greek myths where someone is "cursed by the gods"! (Sisyphus, Narcissus, and Prometheus qualify, I believe.)

I'm particularly interested in works where the curse isn't some ambiguous condition, but rather something that someone actually utters against someone else.
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« Reply #1: September 15, 2007, 09:16:51 am »


...In what other famous works (books, movies, art, opera, whatever) do curses figure prominently?


I'm particularly interested in works where the curse isn't some ambiguous condition, but rather something that someone actually utters against someone else.

Macbeth leaped first into to my mind, with the "Double, double, toil and Trouble" spell believed by many to be a real curse (or spell) of the times.
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« Reply #2: September 15, 2007, 09:24:43 am »

...In what other famous works (books, movies, art, opera, whatever) do curses figure prominently?

Well, to continue with Tolkien: the curse Isildur placed on the people of the mountains in the Second Age, which doomed them to live as ghosts in the Dwimerberg. The curse was later lifted by Aragorn when the people swore to follow him and defeat the corsairs and the army in the south at Pelargir.

And, in the Silmarillion again, Morgoth places a curse on the House of Húrin, which may or may not be an actual curse, because Morgoth mostly says (I think, I don't have my copy with me) he would "put his thought upon his famiy." I think that qualifies as a curse, and of course, it certainly leads to the destruction of the family.


Sorry, the only fiction I can think of when it comes to curses is Tolkien.  Cheesy


PS: I think Alberich does curse the ring in the original Niebelungen myth, but then, it's been a while since I read that one.
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« Reply #3: September 15, 2007, 10:44:03 am »

Macbeth leaped first into to my mind, with the "Double, double, toil and Trouble" spell believed by many to be a real curse (or spell) of the times.

I thought of that one, but I discounted it as prophesy, rather than a curse; but maybe I'm wrong about that. The line between the two can be thin sometimes.
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Altair
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« Reply #4: September 15, 2007, 11:00:39 am »

Sorry, the only fiction I can think of when it comes to curses is Tolkien.  Cheesy

Thanks for those. I figured Tolkein was chock full of curses, but the one on the High Elves of Middle-Earth was the only one that sprang to mind immediately.

I suppose you could argue that the One Ring was cursed, since it corrupted and ultimately betrayed anyone besides Sauron who wore it. Though that's not a deliberate curse directed at an individual, and it's not spoken.
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« Reply #5: September 15, 2007, 11:24:44 am »

And all those Greek myths where someone is "cursed by the gods"! (Sisyphus, Narcissus, and Prometheus qualify, I believe.)

Another example from Greek myths: Inachos curses the fourth generation of his descendants because of Eris edging him on, which results in the hatred between Danaos an Aigyptos... (these names are the German translations, I've no idea whether they're the same in English..)


PS: I think Alberich does curse the ring in the original Niebelungen myth, but then, it's been a while since I read that one.

I'm almost completely sure he does.


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« Reply #6: September 15, 2007, 11:36:12 am »

I suppose you could argue that the One Ring was cursed, since it corrupted and ultimately betrayed anyone besides Sauron who wore it. Though that's not a deliberate curse directed at an individual, and it's not spoken.

Perhaps; I feel though that the "curse" is a by-product of its essential nature, which is evil. It's not as though it was placed like the way I think curses are placed. (Can you tell I'm a Tolkien-geek?  Cheesy)


Oh--just had a big "duh" moment--in "The Debility of the Ulstermen," Macha places a curse on the Ulstermen to the ninth generation that in a time of great need, they will be overcome with weakness like a woman in childbirth for five days and four nights. All of the Ulstermen (except for Cuchulainn) suffered from this curse.
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« Reply #7: September 15, 2007, 11:37:12 am »

I thought of that one, but I discounted it as prophesy, rather than a curse; but maybe I'm wrong about that. The line between the two can be thin sometimes.

Prophesy vs curse did cross my mind when I posted, I decided to along with curse only because some do believe the spell to be authentic and the play itself to be cursed. But like you said, it is just a matter of opinion.
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« Reply #8: September 15, 2007, 02:37:08 pm »

Prophesy vs curse did cross my mind when I posted, I decided to along with curse only because some do believe the spell to be authentic and the play itself to be cursed. But like you said, it is just a matter of opinion.

I can't remember where I heard it, but a while back I heard the curse of Macbeth has nothing to do with bad luck.  It's the play you run when your theatre is in bad times and need to put bums on seats.  I find the idea of Shakespeare including an authentic spell in his play to be a little bizaare. Smiley
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« Reply #9: September 15, 2007, 07:03:51 pm »



There's also the fact that Shakespeare may not even have written those particular sections of Macbeth -- they may have been taken from an earlier witch-play and inserted to pad things out.

And having played Lady Macbeth, I think the reason for the "curse" is that it's one of Shakespeare's shortest plays (it's the shortest tragedy), which makes people think less rehearsal time will be required -- but in that space, there is a *lot* of fighting and dashing about with swords.  Less rehearsal + lots of swordplay = accidents!  Plus, the play is just so damned gloomy that it's easy to fall into that mindset, especially if you're Macbeth or Lady Macbeth -- the other tragedies tend to have a few bright spots, but Macbeth has only the drunken porter, and that ain't much.  (King Lear is famous for causing nervous breakdowns if you're playing the title character, but it also has some glorious, scenery-chewing, thoroughly fun villains who, unlike M and Lady M, don't angst about their evil *at all*.) 
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« Reply #10: September 15, 2007, 08:44:54 pm »

I can't remember where I heard it, but a while back I heard the curse of Macbeth has nothing to do with bad luck.  It's the play you run when your theatre is in bad times and need to put bums on seats.  I find the idea of Shakespeare including an authentic spell in his play to be a little bizaare. Smiley

There's also the fact that Shakespeare may not even have written those particular sections of Macbeth -- they may have been taken from an earlier witch-play and inserted to pad things out.

My understanding was also along those lines, that Shakespeare may not have written the play at all, just modified it. There is a theory that it was once much longer and was shortened for quicker performances. Evidence for this may be in the fact that some information in the play is a bit missing, for example, Lady Macbeth mentions having a child but no one ever knows what became of it. Others however, think that the missing information was intentional, mirrored in Macbeth accusing the witches of being "imperfect speakers" (or incomplete speakers). So, who really knows?

It is also thought that the play reflected Kings James' feelings concerning the dangers of witchcraft. He aggressively prosecuted those who practiced the craft.

Perhaps part of the mystic and lure of the play are its own mysteries.

Glad you had the opportunity to Play Lady M! A great role!
« Last Edit: September 15, 2007, 08:48:28 pm by Nile_Lily, Reason: typo » Logged
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« Reply #11: September 16, 2007, 01:06:56 am »

...In what other famous works (books, movies, art, opera, whatever) do curses figure prominently?

I'm surprised that none of you mentioned the Harry Potter books!  They're chock full of curses and "black magic".  Cheesy Wink

Arvada Kadavra anybody?
« Last Edit: September 16, 2007, 01:09:08 am by Celtee, Reason: to add final thought » Logged

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« Reply #12: September 16, 2007, 01:24:40 am »

I'm surprised that none of you mentioned the Harry Potter books!  They're chock full of curses and "black magic".  Cheesy Wink

Arvada Kadavra anybody?

Imperio! Edit that post and remove the "r" - it's Avada Kadavra! Cheesy
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« Reply #13: September 16, 2007, 04:23:21 am »

My understanding was also along those lines, that Shakespeare may not have written the play at all, just modified it.

That kind of theory seems to crop up now and then.  I don't get the insistence that some people have for saying Shakespeare didn't write his plays.  Admittedly, however, he did frequently steal stories, and then write them in his own fashion.  For example, the legend of Macbeth was pre-existant, as were virtually all his stories.

Quote
There is a theory that it was once much longer and was shortened for quicker performances. Evidence for this may be in the fact that some information in the play is a bit missing, for example, Lady Macbeth mentions having a child but no one ever knows what became of it.

I don't think that's unique to 'Macbeth.'  The specifics of the child, yes..  but then again, an audience of the time would probably have assumed the child died if it didn't appear in the story.  After all, the play was written in a time when you wouldn't *expect* all your children to survive to adulthood.


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It is also thought that the play reflected Kings James' feelings concerning the dangers of witchcraft. He aggressively prosecuted those who practiced the craft.

Well, yes.  Shakespeare needed patrons.  He wrote the play that King James would like.  There are vague allusions to James' future rule in a prophecy given by the witches.
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« Reply #14: September 16, 2007, 09:11:53 am »

I'm surprised that none of you mentioned the Harry Potter books!  They're chock full of curses and "black magic".  Cheesy Wink

*facepalm*

::performs Bat-Bogey Hex on self for her stupidity::

And to round out the Unforgivable Curses... everyone's favourite scene enhancer...Crucio!
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