Shakespeare Uncovered Teacher Viewing Guide

Macbeth with Ethan Hawke

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MACBETH with Ethan Hawke

The Gist: Actor Ethan Hawke is thinking about playing Macbeth, and feels he needs to learn a lot more than he already knows about the play and the character. “I want to seek out some truth,” he says, and he knows how to go about that: “If you want to find out about something, surround yourself with smart people.” In his denim jacket and baseball cap, Hawke works sources in New York and London, and is full of questions. He’s focused on a few big ones:

  • Is the play’s action driven by Macbeth’s human-ness or by supernatural evil?
  • Does Lady Macbeth turn her husband into a killer, or does he possess that power himself?
  • What is the psychology of grief?

He has many more questions besides these. He wants to know how scholars see all of this, how actors and directors would play the characters, how the original audience in Shakespeare’s time would have felt about the witches and a play that features the killing of a king. And more. We have a front-row seat as he investigates and begins to put the pieces together, trying to work out the multiple meanings of Macbeth.

Not To Miss:

  • Hawke’s lively, compelling introduction to the character of Macbeth. You will like it, and so will your students.
  • Gail Kern Paster (Folger Shakespeare Library) and Marjorie Garber (Harvard University) on the Macbeths’ marriage
  • Views of various Macbeths, with extended commentary from Anthony Sher
  • Professor Justin Champion (University of London) on the witches, the “real” Macbeth, and a trip to Dunsinane Hill
  • Hawke’s session with Richard Easton, an actor who has played Macbeth, in which they break down the dagger speech together

After Watching, Keep On Talking (with colleagues or students):

  • Many scholars agree that the Macbeths have the best marriage in all of Shakespeare. Really?! What’s good about their marriage? What’s not?
  • How do our reactions to Macbeth differ from those of Shakespeare’s original audience, and why?
  • Does thinking through the character of Macbeth offer us any insight into the mindsets of the serial killers we have seen far too much of in the United States recently?