Untimely Ripped: Mediating Witchcraft in Polanski and Shakespeare

  • Bryan Reynolds


Shortly after midnight on August 9, 1969, as instructed by cult leader Charles Manson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, Katie Krenwinkel, and Charles Watson unlawfully entered the Hollywood Hills estate of director Roman Polanski and his movie star wife, Sharon Tate. To promote “Helier Skelter,” a horrific dream scheme designed by Manson to effect ultimately a worldwide racial war ending in a white elite ruling over a black population, the four Manson family members set out to rob and brutally murder the inhabitants of the Polanski residence. Steven Parent, a friend of the estate’s caretaker, was the first to die. As Parent attempted to leave the property in his car, he was suddenly, and in short order, shot, stabbed, and killed by Watson. Then, while Kasabian kept a lookout for people coming at the end of the driveway, Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Watson invaded the house, forced its occupants at knife-point into the living room, tied them together with nylon rope by their necks, and began stabbing and shooting them to death. One hundred and two stab wounds scattered the mangled corpses of Abigail Folger, Voityck Frykowski, Jay Sebring, and Sharon Tate, who was eight and a half months pregnant with her and Roman’s first child. When the assassins completed their mission, they returned to Manson who was waiting for them at a bar.


Subjective Territory Evil Spirit York Time Magazine Nylon Rope Ritual Murder 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Works cited

  1. Anglo, Sidney, ed. The Damned Art: Essays in the Literature of Witchcraft. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977.Google Scholar
  2. Artaud, Antonin. Selected Writings. Ed. Susan Sontag. Trans. Helen Weaver. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.Google Scholar
  3. Artaud, Antonin. The Theater and Its Double. Ed. and trans. Mary Caroline Richards. New York: Grove Press, 1958.Google Scholar
  4. Bugliosi, Vincent and Curt Gentry. Helter Skelter The True Story of the Manson Murders. New York: Norton, 1974.Google Scholar
  5. Clark, Stuart. “King James’s Daemonologie: Witchcraft and Kingship.” The Damned Art: Essays in the Literature of Witchcraft. Ed. Sidney Anglo. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977. 156–81.Google Scholar
  6. Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema 2: The Time-Image. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995.Google Scholar
  7. Didion, Joan. The White Album. New York: The Noonday Press, 1991.Google Scholar
  8. Ebert, Roger. Rev. of Macbeth, dir. Roman Polanski. Chicago Sun-Times April 3, 1972: 32.Google Scholar
  9. Fiedler, Leslie. The Stranger in Shakespeare. New York: Stein and Day, 1972.Google Scholar
  10. Gilmore, John and Ron Kenner. The Garbage People. New York: Omega Press, 1971.Google Scholar
  11. Gitlin, Todd. The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage. New York: Bantam, 1987.Google Scholar
  12. Greenblatt, Stephen. Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.Google Scholar
  13. James I. Letters of King James VI and I, G. P. V. Ed. G.P.V. Akrigg. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.Google Scholar
  14. Kael, Pauline. New Yorker February 5, 1972: 76.Google Scholar
  15. Kubiak, Anthony. Stages of Terror. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1991.Google Scholar
  16. Macfarlane, Alan. Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England: A Regional and Comparative Study. New York: Harper and Row, 1970.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Manson, Charles. The Manson File. Ed. Nikolas Schreck. New York: Amok Press, 1988.Google Scholar
  18. The Most Cruell and Bloody Murther Committed by an Inkeepers Wife. London, 1606.Google Scholar
  19. Muir, Kenneth. Introduction. Macbeth. By William Shakespeare. Ed. Kenneth Muir. London: Methuen, 1984. xiii–ixv.Google Scholar
  20. “New Feminists: Revolt Against Sexism.” Time. November 21, 1969: 54.Google Scholar
  21. Patterson, Annabel. Censorship and Interpretation: The Conditions of Writing and Reading in Early Modern England. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984.Google Scholar
  22. Polanski, Roman, dir. Macbeth. Perf. Jon Finch and Francesca Annis. Columbia/Tristar Studios, 1971.Google Scholar
  23. Reynolds, Bryan. Becoming Criminal: Transversal Performance and Cultural Dissidence in Early Modern England. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.Google Scholar
  24. Reynolds, Bryan. “The Devil’s House, ‘or worse’: Transversal Power and Antitheatrical Discourse in Early Modern England.” Theatre Journal 49.2 (1997): 143–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Reynolds, Bryan. “Untimely Ripped.” Social Semiotics 7.2 (1997): 201–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Reynolds, Bryan. “The Terrorism of Macbeth and Charles Manson: Reading Cultural Construction in Polanski and Shakespeare.” The Upstart Crow 13 (1993): 109–29.Google Scholar
  27. Reynolds, Bryan and Joseph Fitzpatrick. “The Transversality of Michel de Certeau: Foucault’s Panoptic Discourse and the Cartographic Impulse.” Diacritics 29.3 (1999): 63–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Reynolds, Bryan and D.J. Hopkins. “The Making of Authorships: Transversal Navigation in the Wake of Hamlet, Robert Wilson, Wolfgang Wiens, and Shakespace.” Shakespeare After Mass Media. Ed. Richard Burt. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002. 265–86.Google Scholar
  29. Robbins, Rossell Hope. The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology. New York: Crown Publishers, 1959.Google Scholar
  30. Rothwell, Kenneth. “Roman Polanski’s Macbeth: Golgotha Triumphant.” Literature Film Quarterly 1.1 (1973): 71–75.Google Scholar
  31. Scarry, Elaine. The Body and Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.Google Scholar
  32. Scot, Reginald. The Discoverie of Witchcraft. London: 1584.Google Scholar
  33. Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Ed. Kenneth Muir. London: Methuen, 1951.Google Scholar
  34. Stern, Jane and Michael Stern. Sixties People. London: Macmillan, 1990.Google Scholar
  35. Tynan, Kenneth. “The Polish Imposition.” Esquire 76.3 (1971): 122–25, 180–89.Google Scholar
  36. Weinraub, Bernard. Interview with Roman Polanski. New York Times Magazine. December 12, 1971: 36–37, 64–83.Google Scholar
  37. Wizinski, Sy. Charles Manson: Love Letters to a Secret Disciple. Indiana: Moonmad Press, 1976.Google Scholar
  38. Zimmerman, Paul. Rev. of Macbeth, dir. Roman Polanski. Newsweek January 10, 1972: 59.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Bryan Reynolds 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bryan Reynolds

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations