The stories behind Shakespeare's greatest plays are shared by Shakespearian actors and directors in this series, beginning with Ethan Hawke, who prepares for "Macbeth" by searching out the inspiration for the title character.
Derek Jacobi examines "Richard II," which he starred in for the BBC in 1978. He details the political aspects of the play that still resonate in the modern age, and coaches actors at the Globe who are acting in it. Also: excerpts from a "Great Performances" production of the play that stars Ben Whishaw and Patrick Stewart.
In the finale, director Trevor Nunn—who has helmed productions of 30 Shakespeare plays—examines the Bard's final complete play, "The Tempest," which he sees as Shakespeare's farewell to the stage and inspired by issues drawn from the playwright's life. Among those Nunn meets with to discuss the play: Helen Mirren and director Julie Taymor, who collaborated on the 2010 film adaptation of the same name; and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams.
Jeremy Irons examines "Henry IV" and "Henry V," including how they deviated from history. He also offers a behind-the-scenes look at "Great Performances" adaptations of the plays that star himself and Tom Hiddleston.
David Tennant, who starred in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of "Hamlet," meets with other actors who've portrayed the Danish prince, including Jude Law. He also discusses the play's meaning with Simon Russell Beale and Ben Whishaw; and ponders the reasons why it is considered to be Shakespeare's greatest work.