Numbers 7, 6 and 5

Top 10 scariest moments in Shakespeare: numbers 7, 6 and 5



Our expert panel have picked out ten of Shakespeare’s most chillsome moments. Today we countdown three more spooktacular nominations.

Compiled by Andy McLean

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7. Chiron and Demetrius reach a new and terrible low

(Titus Andronicus)

When asked to pick his scariest moment in Shakespeare, one play leapt straight into the mind of Bell Shakespeare Associate Director, James Evans: “Titus Andronicus is packed full of horror,” he says. “It plays out like a prequel to the Saw series, full of cartoonish blood and gore.

“But perhaps the most terrifying part for me is a moment that is all too real. In Act 2, Scene 3, Chiron and Demetrius have just murdered Bassianus and dumped his body in a ditch. They then turn to Lavinia, who is begging for mercy, and decide that they are going to make her suffer. We all know what happens next.

“That remorseless, gleeful young male violence sends shivers down my spine. And it is all overseen by their mother, Tamora, who, like Smurf Cody (Jacki Weaver) in Animal Kingdom, backs her boys to the hilt. Truly terrifying.”

James Evans hosts Speak The Speech, a podcast celebrating Shakespeare’s greatest speeches with some of Australia’s best-loved actors. Subscribe now on your favourite podcast platform.

6. Unhinged, Lady Macbeth sleepwalks towards her death


By Act 5, Scene 1 of the Scottish Play, Lady Macbeth is a shadow of her former self. A doctor and gentlewoman find her sleepwalking, muttering aloud and experiencing macabre flashbacks from earlier events in the play.

There are two reasons that this is the scariest Shakespearean scene for Alice Grundy, Associate Publisher at Brio and editor of Seizure: “The first is Lady Macbeth seeming almost possessed as she sleepwalks. The second is that, as a sleepwalker myself, it shows how easily one might betray oneself unwittingly. You will know this scene for its now ubiquitous line (Out damned spot), and for its renewed importance in COVID-19 times: keep your hands clean.”

Listen to Kylie Bracknell talk about her experience adapting and directing Hecate, a version of Macbeth entirely in Noongar language, in the Speak The Speech podcast.

5. Hamlet reaches the point of no return


Shakespeare conjured a few spectral apparitions in his plays, but the ghost with the most has to be Old King Hamlet. This tortured spirit has a knack for scaring the bejesus out of young Hamlet, and his apparition in Act 3, Scene 4 is timed to petrifying perfection.

Prince Hamlet has just mistakenly killed Polonius (without remorse) then raged at Queen Gertrude, when the ghost reveals himself – but only to Hamlet. Chaos reigns in the room and in the minds of Hamlet and his mother, who thinks her son has gone mad. From this scene onwards, the young prince loses all control of events and surrenders himself to fate. It’s almost as if the ghost is dragging Hamlet (and half the Danish royal court) with him towards oblivion.

Listen to actor, director and playwright Toby Schmitz discuss his favourite play, Hamlet, in the Speak The Speech podcast.

Dr Nick Walton from Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust provides the lowdown on Hamlet in this exclusive interview with Andy Mclean.

To be continued…

Stay tuned on social media in the coming days as we continue the countdown of the Ten Scariest Moments In Shakespeare. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Read more

Read about numbers 10, 9 and 8 in our countdown of Scariest Moments in Shakespeare

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