Shakespeare Uncovered Teacher Viewing Guide


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Teaching Colleagues,

Shakespeare Uncovered, a six-part series airing on PBS beginning on January 25th, is a teacher’s dream come true. Each episode gives us something that we teachers almost never get: a compelling, lively, totally accessible journey through and around a Shakespeare play, guided by brilliant and plain-spoken expertsall within one hour.

I’m not given to endorsements, but oh, I love this series. Why will we teachers love it and why do we need it?

  • Because, as we learned from the very start of the Folger Library’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute, teachers tend to be more confident, better teachers if they have greater and deeper knowledge of the plays themselves.
  • Because no matter what our relationship with the plays – we love them, we struggle with them, we’re tired of teaching the same ones, we’re afraid of some of them – we almost never have the time to learn more about them. We are teachers, after all: always under a deadline, we’re reading, grading, prepping, mindful of the next deadline. (And then there’s the rest of our lives . . . )

Shakespeare Uncovered is your chance to take a deep, pleasurable dive into a handful of plays—ones you know well, others that may be less familiar to you.

In six episodes, Shakespeare Uncovered takes on eight plays: Macbeth, Hamlet, The Tempest, Richard II, Twelfth Night and As You Like It, Henry IV, Part I, and Henry V. The host of each episode has plenty of Shakespeare credEthan Hawke, Jeremy Irons, Joely Richardson and her mom, Vanessa Redgrave, for examplebut each wants to learn more about the play. They investigate: they have lively conversations with actors, directors, literary scholars, historians, and even psychologists on both sides of the Atlantic. They watch rehearsals at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, and talk through aspects of performance with actors and directors. They head to libraries and examine the earliest printed versions of the plays. They ask questions of everyone.

They ask lots of questions we would ask. They learn. And we learn.

Please see Shakespeare Uncovered as a series of splendid “short courses” for you. WNET makes it easy: the episodes are available for streaming on the PBS website, and a robust collection of lesson plans and classroom resources provide a variety of ways to bring the learning to your students.

O this learning, what a thing it is!

Dr. Peggy O’Brien
Founding Director of Education
General editor, Shakespeare Set Free
Folger Shakespeare Library
Washington, DC