30 June 2013

I spent part of today watching “Shakespeare Uncovered,” a multi-part series on PBS. Each episode covered a different play, including “Macbeth,” “Richard II,” “Henry IV and V,” and “Hamlet,” and was hosted by an actor who had played the role, such as Jeremy Irons, Derek Jacobi and Ethan Hawke.

Each segment (there was also one dedicated to the comedies, hosted by Vanessa Redgrave and daughter Joely Richardson) featured Shakespearean experts, as well as excerpts from film and theatrical versions, and interviews with actors who have played key roles in the plays over the years. 

I loved the breakdown of specific scenes, the historical perspectives, and different interpretations of what the plays mean. Plus, the series features some of the most acclaimed actors in the world speaking Shakespeare’s lyrical, beautiful words (There is something strangely incongruent watching Irons watch Olivier’s “Henry V” from 1944 on his iPad as he takes a train journey to trace Henry V’s actual path.)  Watching the brotherhood of actors who have played “Hamlet,”including “Dr. Who’s” David Tennant and Jude Law, talk about how they were changed by playing the ultimate role gives great insight (not to mention how they approached delivering the most famous soliloquy in literature). 

I’m convinced that between the Bible and the collected works of Shakespeare, we can learn everything we ever need to know about human nature and the darkness and lightness of our souls. Nothing changes as the centuries go by. These stories are as relevant today as they were 400 years ago.

June 30: PBS:  http://www.pbs.org/

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