A series of one-hour studies of various aspects of Shakespeare’s plays; these are remarkably penetrating as a rule. They bring in a wide range of scholars and theater people for interviews, and present a variety of perspectives on particular plays and the broad spectrum of Shakespeare studies. There are so far two seasons (2013 and 2015). I hope there will be more.
The episodes of the first season (2013) are:
- The Comedies with Joely Richardson: chiefly on the roles of women in the Shakespeare comedies; a very penetrating discussion.
- Macbeth with Ethan Hawke: not the best of these, to my thinking, but contains some thoughtful ideas about Macbeth.
- Richard II with Derek Jacobi: remarkable, both in the depth of penetration of the play itself, and in embodying Jacobi’s own perspectives on his BBC Shakespeare performance of Richard II thirty years ago.
- The Tempest with Trevor Nunn: an intriguing perspective on the play from one of the most consistent innovators of the last two generations; not perhaps as penetrating as some of the others, at least in regard to the totality of the play, but still quite intriguing.
- Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, Henry V with Jeremy Irons: quite remarkable. Irons had just recently come from playing the role of Henry IV in the two Henry IV plays forThe Hollow Crown, and his understanding of the character is remarkable. He also has a number of penetrating things to say about Henry V and its view of war in theater and in history.
- Hamlet with David Tennant: from one of the finest actors to have played the role, a nuanced look at the character and (interestingly) what it’s like to play him on stage.
The episodes of the second season (2015) are:
- The Taming of the Shrew with Morgan Freeman: Freeman pitches The Taming of the Shrew as the most compelling of Shakespeare’s comedies, despite its political incorrectness, and as the prototype of every Hollywood “screwball comedy” ever made.
- Romeo and Juliet with Joseph Fiennes: Fiennes, who played Shakespeare and Romeo in Shakespeare in Love, digs into the play, its construction, and its contemporary applicability.
- Othello with David Harewood: an intense personal investigation of the character of Othello in the context of the play by an actor who played Othello on stage in London, interleaved with perspectives from other productions.
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Hugh Bonneville: this principally explores why audiences seem to have found A Midsummer Night’s Dream so immediately engaging, perhaps beyond any other of Shakespeare’s plays.
- Antony and Cleopatra with Kim Cattrall: a very thoughtful exploration of the play as both a human and political document, with discussions with famous actresses who have played the role of Cleopatra. Also shows a little interior footage of the recently-completed Blackfriars Theatre next to the rebuilt Globe.
- King Lear with Christopher Plummer: Love and the power of those who fall. A very personal glimpse into the play from the perspective of Plummer himself and a few others who have played the role of Lear, or roles close to him (especially Cordelia). Also contains a fascinating glimpse of the Nahum Tate revision of the play popular from about 1700 till 1838.
Claudius; Ghost of Hamlet’s Father; John of Gaunt; Macbeth: Patrick Stewart
Falstaff: Anthony Quayle
Ferdinand: Michael Benz
Gertrude: Eileen Herlie
Gertrude: Glenn Close
Hal, Henry V: David Gwillim
Hamlet: Mel Gibson
Henry V: Kenneth Branagh
Henry V: Laurence Olivier
Henry V; Himself: Tom Hiddleston
Herself: Harriet Walter
Herself: Helen Mirren
Herself: Joely Richardson
Himself: Orson Welles
Himself; Host; Hamlet: David Tennant
Himself; Richard II: Derek Jacobi
Himself: David Warner
Himself: Ethan Hawke
Himself: Jeremy Irons
Himself: Jude Law
Himself: Trevor Nunn
John of Gaunt: John Gielgud
Lady Macbeth: Tori Sparks
Macbeth: Jon Finch
Macbeth: Sean Connery
Miranda: Felicity Jones
Miranda: Pippa Guard
Polonius: Felix Aylmer
Prospero: Christopher Plummer
Prospero: Michael Hordern
Richard II: Ben Whishaw
Viola: Jade Anouka