Shakespeare Uncovered: Ethan Hawke on Macbeth, tonight 9pm BBC4

Shakespeare Uncovered: Ethan Hawke sets out to prepare himself for the possibility of playing the role of Macbeth by uncovering the true story behind the play, seeing some of the greatest productions and discovering the extraordinary insights into the criminal mind that Shakespeare reveals.

Ethan has played a modern-dress Hamlet, but he is fascinated by the challenge of the truly ancient story of Macbeth. Assisted by historian Justin Champion – who visits the actual Scottish sites of the story on his behalf – Ethan is introduced to Dunsinane where Macbeth supposedly lived and to the history books that distorted the true story and led Shakespeare himself to distort the truth.

Ethan is also helped by actors and performers in his home town of New York as he investigates the ‘bloody heart’ of this extraordinary character. He also wants to know how important Macbeth’s wife is to the whole story and we observe Shakespeare’s Globe actors rehearsing and performing scenes from the play. He talks at length to Anthony Sher and his director Greg Doran (recently appointed to take over as artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company) about their legendary stage and film production of the play.

Finally, Ethan goes to look at a copy of the First Folio – The Complete Works of Shakespeare, as published in 1623. This priceless book contains the first ever printed version of the play – if Shakespeare’s friends had not clubbed together after the writer’s death to create this book, then Macbeth and 16 other Shakespeare plays would have been lost forever.

At the end of the film Ethan believes that this extraordinarily brutal and bloody play does have a message of comfort and explains why the mayor of New York chose to quote from it on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the atrocity of 9/11.

Ethan Hawke on the witches in Macbeth: iPlayer Duration 01:27. Ethan wanders through Central Park talking about the importance of the witches and how Macbeth finds them in a ‘no man’s land’. Central Park is evocative of this, feeling like the country but with the city just on the edges. We then cut to the witches performing at the Globe theatre appearing through the fog reciting the well known withches’ speech.

Upcoming broadcasts of this episode:

BBC Four: Tuesday 26 June, 21:00

BBC Four: Wednesday 27 June, 03:20

BBC HD: Wednesday 27 June, 23:00

BBC Four: Thursday 28 June, 23:05

If you missed last week’s episode of Shakespeare Uncovered, where Joley Richardson talks of the roles of women in his early plays, there’s 2 weeks left to view it on iPlayer: Shakespeare’s Women

Next: The Hollow Crown which brings together four filmed adaptations of Shakespeare’s History Plays – Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. Saturday BBC2, 9pm.

About ouartsfaculty

The Arts Faculty of The Open University is a world leader in supported Open Learning, and one of the best institutions in the world for arts and humanities. You can follow us on Twitter @OUArtsFaculty and on Facebook.
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