Thursday, January 31, 2013

shakespeare uncovered

PBS has a new show that fans of acting and actors, and most especially, William Shakespeare, are bound to enjoy. Each episode of Shakespeare Uncovered features a well-known actor tracing the steps of the Bard's famous plays.

The first episode, which featured actor Ethan Hawke examining Macbeth was a real treat. Hawke, known for his own interpretation of Hamlet, examined the possibilities of exploring the character of Macbeth, a part he yearns to play. He visited Scotland and spoke to other actors who had assayed the role. The episode also featured scenes from interpretations by actors Patrick Stewart and Antony Sher. Noted Shakespeare scholars also weigh in to give the play and its characters context. One of the more interesting observations that came up during the episode was that the Macbeths, for all of their murderous impulses, are one of Shakespeare's happier married couples. It is this sort of fresh look at an old play that most viewers may not have glanced at or thought about since high school English class that makes Shakespeare Uncovered so interesting to watch.

Ethan Hawke consults fellow actor Richard Easton on how to play the dagger scene in Macbeth
The next episode will feature actress Joely Richardson discussing Shakespeare's comedies Twelfth Night and As You Like It (it hasn't aired yet here, but has already aired on some PBS stations). That will be followed by Derek Jacobi on Richard II, Jeremy Irons on Henry IV and Henry V, and David Tennant examining Hamlet and The Tempest. I have to admit that I'm very eager to see Jacobi, one of my favorite actors, and his take. I remember seeing him do both Richard II and Hamlet as part of The BBC Television Shakespeare, an ambitious project to film all of the Bard's plays for television, when I was still in middle school. I have since come to learn that he is one of those who doubt that William Shakespeare actually wrote the plays. I disagree with this point of view, but still love him. It will be interesting to see if he butts heads with scholars on his episode.

Derek Jacobi as Richard II, John Gielgud as John of Gaunt
David Tennant as Hamlet, Patrick Stewart as Claudius

PBS also includes links to three filmed Shakespeare plays:

Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood
Hamlet, starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart
King Lear, starring Ian McKellen

This is a real treat for fans of Shakespeare and is making me want to hunt down some of those older late '70s - early '80s versions of the plays, too.
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