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.

Produced by Blakeway Productions, 116 Films and THIRTEEN in association with 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.

Behind every Shakespeare play there is a story: for instance, how he and his company dismantled their theater and rowed it across the river Thames when their landlord cancelled their lease then staged Henry V for the first time. There are echoes of the playwright’s life who named his twins Hamnet (a boy, who died at age 11) and Judith in plays like Twelfth Night, where the plot turns on the adventures of separated twins; and Hamlet, where the drama begins with the grief of a son who has lost his father. The series shows Shakespeare as an impresario who, four centuries ago, defined early the tenets of show business drawing on historical sources, stealing and adapting ideas, bringing back popular characters, writing prequels, and developing dramatic ideas from the politics of the day.

Each program’s host has deep personal experience with Shakespeare’s work and relates not only the stories of the plays themselves, but also the stories of how they came to be written, how they have been performed, and how they have survived over 400 years.

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Shakespeare Uncovered is produced by Richard Denton. Bill O’Donnell is series producer; Stephen Segaller and David Horn are executive producers for THIRTEEN; Fiona Stourton for Blakeway.

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Project Advisors:

Stephen Greenblatt is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. He is a past president of the Modern Language Association. His books include the best-selling biography Will in the World and most recently The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Gail Kern Paster is director emerita of Folger Shakespeare Library. She is a past editor of Shakespeare Quarterly, the leading scholarly journal devoted to Shakespeare. Her many books include The Idea of the City in the Age of Shakespeare and Humoring the Body: Emotions on the Shakespearean Stage.

Abigail Rokison is a lecturer in Shakespeare and theater at the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon, and has also served as director of studies in English and drama at Homerton College, Cambridge University. A former actress, she is the chair of the British Shakespeare Association.

René Weis is professor of English and vice-dean of the faculty of arts and humanities at University College, London. His many publications include Shakespeare Revealed: A Biography (published in the U.S. as Shakespeare Unbound: Decoding a Hidden Life).

Stanley Wells, honorary president and former chair of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, is a renowned authority on Shakespeare and other writers of his time. General coeditor of The Complete Oxford Shakespeare, his many books include Shakespeare & Co. and Shakespeare for All Time.

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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.