Macbeth with Ethan Hawke

There’s daggers in men’s smiles. Ethan Hawke takes you along as he researches the part of Shakespeare’s murderous Macbeth.

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  • Bob Pollack

    I have NEVER before spent energy to post a negative comment, but I am so shocked that PBS would air any Shakespeare-related program featuring an host as un-Shakespearean, not to mention totally untalented, as Ethan Hawke. While I am a lifetime PBS fan, I must say that this program’s content was uncharacteristically sophomoric and the performance of Mr. Hawke was pure torture (why oh why?). After 50 years of excellent Public Television, we have come to expect more (just spoiled, I guess).

  • Peter Van Lone

    Bob – calm down man, calm down. I don’t think he’s the most talented actor ever, either. But the show breaks down some of the key aspects of Macbeth in a way that makes it approachable. It was an entertaining episode. Gees …

  • Christopher Caserio

    Yes, the program offers some excellent insight into Macbeth. However, the presentation is fatally polluted by the moronic contributions of Hawke, and some of the other modern actors. No surprise there. If you want to understand MacBeth, try reading it…don’t rely on actors or professors to explain it.

    • Michael

      If you want to understand Macbeth, try watching it…rely on actors to perform it for you.

  • Rozanne Gates

    I found it thoroughly enlightening, entertaining, educational, and mesmerizing. Sorry others couldn’t appreciate the program as much as I do.

  • Graham Coppin

    PBS your streaming sucks. I can’t watch videos that stop every 15 seconds!! Please fix your bandwidth issues. You never used to have this problem and now suddenly you do. All other sites stream fine on my end so it’s a PBS issue.

  • Dr. Bob Zaslavsky

    [Posted on my Facebook (FB) page on Monday, 28 January 2013]

    The new BBC series Shakespeare Uncovered debuted on PBS last
    Friday night. It will air two episodes at a time for three weeks. Episodes are
    available streaming on the PBS web site the day after they air (
    The first pair of episodes was devoted to (1) Ethan Hawke preparing to play
    Macbeth and (2) Joely Richardson reflecting on the women of Shakespeare’s
    comedies, especially As You Like It and Twelfth Night (January 25).

    The first two episodes were worthwhile, if uneven.

    Ethan Hawke’s combination of clumsy ignorance about
    Shakespeare’s language (which I doubt to have been feigned for the sake of the
    television audience) and his actorly reverence for the depth and challenge of
    the plays had a kind of charm and appeal that just might bring more of an
    audience to Shakespeare. In addition, as he learned, the audience
    learned–through watching scenes played by a variety of actors, through
    interviews with theater professionals and scholars. The program may not have
    plumbed the full depths of Macbeth, but it was a good-hearted and sincere

    Joely Richardson’s discussion of the women in the comedies was
    enriched by her on-screen conversations with her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, and
    her recollections of her grandfather, Sir Michael Redgrave. In addition, the
    excursions into the acting of the plays in Shakespeare’s time (especially the
    gender playfulness that was rendered more pointed by having young boys playing
    women’s roles) were provocative in a good way, even if they did not go as far
    as I would have liked.
    The remaining episodes will be:
    (3) Derek Jacobi on playing Richard II and (4) Jeremy Irons on
    Shakespeare’s history plays, especially Henry IV, parts 1 & 2, and Henry V
    (air date February 1, streaming next day);
    (5) David Tennant on playing Hamlet and (6) Trevor Nunn
    (director) on The Tempest (air date February 8, streaming next day).

    In connection with the second episode, I have posted a link to
    my essay “Shakespeare’s Twelfe Night: An Introduction for Teachers”
    on my DocZOnline alternate page (
    In addition, in connection with the sixth episode, I would recommend the link
    that I posted on FB on January 3 to my essay “The Tempest: Shakespeare’s
    Farewell to His Art.”

  • Marc Adler

    Graham – no streaming problems here.

  • Jennifer Lindsteadt

    I showed this video to my high school students as we were ending the Macbeth unit, and it really helped recap some of the major ideas and episodes in the play. It also helped them reconsider their thoughts as to which character (or fate) was to blame for the violence. Say what you want about Hawke, but my kids loved it! Multiple students told me so. I think Hawke presents the information in a way that non-English majors can relate to. His questions and reactions upon discovering the text for the first time helped model honest, excitement toward difficult texts. I think my students were able to identify with him in that regard. Thanks PBS!

  • CamillaK

    I agree with Rozanne Gates. I’ve watched Shakespeare for decades and still learned from this piece. Yes, I’m glad we didn’t see Hawke play Macbeth. He’s not ready for it. And it is surprising that he couldn’t figure out was “murther” was. But the clips of the various productions were fascinating, the RSC directors had useful insights, the dancers added a fascinating dimension to the body language of emotion, and the psychologist who worked with murderers in a mental hospital proved again Shakespeare’s understanding of human behavior. A lot to like, actually. So thanks PBS. I intend to watch all of them.

  • britt

    beautifully put in my opinion. from both Ethan, and everyone involved. id love to be able to look at, and touch, that copy at the Morgan library. keep making more shows like this Ethan. im 16, and found this to be, well just excellent.

  • Sarah Noah

    I think the beauty of this piece being hosted by Ethan Hawke
    is that it really does create the idea that anyone can read and act out
    Shakespeare. As an English teacher, I constantly try to show students that
    anyone can understand Shakespearean language. However, if you always have
    Shakespearean experts sharing facts, it is very hard for students to relate to.

    This video makes Macbeth relatable. We learn the history of
    Macbeth through the eyes of someone who does not drone on about boring facts, we
    see the violence in the story in a more modern light, and the movie really
    touches on the motif of human condition, both in this play, and in almost every
    Shakespearean work.

    While Hawke might not be a Shakespearean expert, this video
    is put together in a way that it is easy for others to see why Hamlet would be
    an interesting character, or play.

    I think PBS did a great job making Macbeth relatable in this
    video and plan to use this video as an instructional tool in my classroom.

    ~Sarah Noah –