East Molesey, United Kingdom

The first performance of Macbeth

Three years after King James I succeeded Elizabeth I on the throne in 1603, it is clear that William Shakespeare was writing for his new king when the play Macbeth came out. James was already king of Scotland, and this play centers on Scottish history. Whereas, when Elizabeth reigned, certain plays flattered the Tudor dynasty, of which she was the last monarch.

On August 7, 1606 Shakespeare's play Macbeth was performed for King James I and his brother-in-law, King Christian IV of Denmark. It is the first known performance and was staged in the Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace. But just before the performance, boy-actor Hal Berridge, set to play Lady Macbeth, suddenly fell ill. Legend says that Shakespeare filled the role himself. Later, Berridge died, which has led to the idea that the play itself is cursed.

Lady Macbeth. By Kenny Meadows, 1850. Engraving.

The first performance of Macbeth