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In a unique series of six films, Shakespeare Uncovered combines history, biography, iconic performances, new analysis, and the personal passions of its celebrated hosts – Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Irons, Derek Jacobi, Trevor Nunn, Joely Richardson, and David Tennant – to tell the stories behind the stories of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. Click on the title listed below to view each film online.

Produced by Richard Denton for Blakeway Productions & THIRTEEN for WNET in association with the BBC and Shakespeare’s Globe, each episode explores and reveals the extraordinary world and works of William Shakespeare and the still-potent impact they have today. The films combine 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 staged specially for the series at Shakespeare’s Globe in London.

In addition to the Shakespeare Uncovered series, Great Performances recently presented a lavish new series of filmed adaptations of four of Shakespeare’s most gripping plays, known as the Hollow Crown series. They are: Richard II, Henry IV, Parts I and II, and Henry V. The films – chronicling a bloody tale of family, politics and power — tell the rise and fall of three Kings and how their destiny shaped English history. Richard II (Ben Whishaw) is a vain, self-indulgent man who rules with little regard for his people’s welfare. He is ultimately overthrown by his cousin Bolingbroke (Rory Kinnear), who ascends the throne as Henry IV (Jeremy Irons). Henry IV’s reign is marred by his own guilt over Richard’s death, civil war, and the gnawing fear that his son Hal (Tom Hiddleston) is a total wastrel unworthy of the throne. When Hal comes to the throne as Henry V he is left to bury the ghosts of his father’s past while fighting both the French forces as well as his own inner demons.

Order the complete Hollow Crown series here.



The Shakespeare Uncovered Series | Click the Links Below to View the Full Length Videos

Macbeth with Ethan Hawke

Ethan Hawke invites viewers on his quest to play Shakespeare’s murderous Thane of Cawdor by researching the true story and real-life events that served as the play’s inspiration. Historian Justin Champion visits the actual Scottish sites of the story on Hawke’s behalf, introducing him to Dunsinane where Macbeth supposedly lived, and to the history books that distorted the true story and consequently led Shakespeare to do the same.

The Comedies with Joely Richardson

Joely Richardson investigates (with her mother Vanessa Redgrave) the legacy of these two brilliant cross-dressing comedies, with their missing twins, mistaken identities, and characters in disguise; their connections to Shakespeare’s personal life; and the great romantic heroines created by Shakespeare in two perennially popular plays.

Richard II with Derek Jacobi

In returning to the role of a deposed monarch whose crown is taken from him, Derek Jacobi takes a 360-degree view of this great political thriller whose title character he played more than 30 years ago. Jacobi shares insights on the play’s political twists – and their modern equivalents – that have kept Richard II resonant for centuries through its understanding of power’s tendency to corrupt and distort the truth, and how quickly power may be lost.

Henry IV & Henry V with Jeremy Irons

Jeremy Irons uncovers the enduring appeal of Shakespeare’s most iconic “history plays,” from the true English history embedded into the works to the father-son drama that Shakespeare created. In disclosing Shakespeare’s sources – and steps the playwright took to distort them – Irons uncovers the historical truths behind the story and how they inspired some of Shakespeare’s most famous monologues.

Hamlet with David Tennant

An acclaimed Hamlet in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s hit production (also a recent Great Performances production), David Tennant meets fellow actors who’ve tackled this most iconic of roles, including superstar Jude Law, and compares notes on the role’s titanic challenges. Tennant digs deep into the text about the doomed Danish Prince alongside the actors Simon Russell Beale and Ben Whishaw. With them he works to plumb the deeper meanings of the play and the reason it is widely considered the greatest of Shakespeare’s canon.

The Tempest with Trevor Nunn

Trevor Nunn, the legendary director who has helmed 30 of Shakespeare’s 37 plays – and aims to complete them all before he retires – takes us through the magical and mysterious world created in the playwright’s last complete work. Nunn considers The Tempest as Shakespeare’s farewell from the stage, and explores the biographical nature of the play and its connection to the playwright’s often troubled family life.


Additional Videos with Connections to Shakespeare

A Conversation with Dan McCleary

An informative interview with the founder and artistic producing director of Tennessee Shakespeare Company.

Still on the Road

Travel with twelve actors across the country as they teach high school and college students a new way to look at Shakespeare.


Shakespeare Uncovered is made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the generous support of the project's lead foundation sponsor,
the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation. Major funding is also provided by Rosalind P. Walter, The Polonsky Foundation, Virginia and Dana Randt,
the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, and PBS.


Major funding for GREAT PERFORMANCES is provided by the Irene Diamond Fund, The Starr Foundation, Vivian Milstein, Rosalind P. Walter,
the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Joseph A. Wilson, Jody and John Arnhold, The Agnes Varis Trust, and PBS.


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