Six episodes combine history, biography, iconic performances, new analysis and the personal passion of its celebrated hosts — Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Irons, Derek Jacobi, Trevor Nunn, Joely Richardson and David Tennant — to tell the story behind the stories of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. Each episode combines interviews with actors, directors and scholars, along with visits to key locations, clips from some of the most celebrated film and television adaptations, and illustrative excerpts from the plays specially staged for the series at Shakespeare's Globe in London.
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Richard II With Derek Jacobi Friday, February 1 at 9:00 p.m. Derek Jacobi returns to a role he played 30 years ago, coaches actors at the Globe in aspects of the play, reveals why it could have cost Shakespeare his life — and shares some of the extraordinary modern political parallels within the play that still resonate as dictators are deposed. Also featured are notable excerpts from the upcoming GREAT PERFORMANCES film adaptation starring Ben Whishaw and Patrick Stewart.
Henry IV & Henry V With Jeremy Irons Friday, February 1 at 10:00 p.m.
Jeremy Irons (who stars as Henry IV in the upcoming new GREAT PERFORMANCES film adaptation) uncovers the enduring appeal of Shakespeare’s “history plays,” from the facts of English history to the father-son drama that Shakespeare created. He discloses what Shakespeare’s sources were — and how he distorted them. He invites the viewer behind the scenes at the filming of some of the most important sequences in the new GREAT PERFORMANCES adaptations of both plays, starring Irons, with Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal.
Hamlet With David Tennant Friday, February 8 at 9:00 p.m.
An acclaimed Hamlet himself in the RSC’s recent hit production (and another recent GREAT PERFORMANCES production), David Tennant meets with fellow Hamlets, including superstar Jude Law, comparing notes on the titanic challenge of playing the most iconic of all roles. He also tries, alongside Simon Russell Beale and Ben Whishaw, to master the meaning of the play and the reason why it is considered the greatest of Shakespeare’s works.
The Tempest With Trevor Nunn Friday, February 8 at 10:00 p.m.
Trevor Nunn, the legendary director who has directed 30 of Shakespeare’s 37 plays and is determined to complete them all before he retires, takes viewers through the magical and mysterious world created in Shakespeare’s last complete play. He considers The Tempest Shakespeare’s farewell from the stage and relates the play to the playwright’s family life. Among the enthusiastic students of the play who contribute ideas about the role of Prospero is the Archbishop of Canterbury, along with Helen Mirren and director Julie Taymor, who collaborated on the most recent film adaptation — with Mirren playing a female Prospera.