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Arts & Culture

SHAKESPEARE UNCOVERED: The Winter's Tale With Simon Russell Beale

"The Winter's Tale" with Simon Russell Beale (pictured).
Courtesy of Rory Mulvey
"The Winter's Tale" with Simon Russell Beale (pictured).

Airs Sunday, March 31, 2019 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

The fascinating history behind Shakespeare’s greatest plays continues with a third season of SHAKESPEARE UNCOVERED.

The ambitious series concludes with celebrated new hosts Helen Hunt, F. Murray Abraham, Romola Garai, Brian Cox, Simon Russell Beale and Sir Antony Sher, who seamlessly weave their personal passions with history, biography, iconic performances and new analysis to tell the stories behind the stories of Shakespeare’s famous works.

The final season investigates “Much Ado About Nothing,” “The Merchant of Venice,” “Measure for Measure,” “Julius Caesar,” “The Winter’s Tale” and “Richard III.”

Each episode reveals the extraordinary world and works of William Shakespeare and the still-potent impact his plays 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.

SHAKESPEARE UNCOVERED reveals not just the elements in the play, but the history of the play itself:

  • What sparked the creation of each of these works?
  • Where did Shakespeare find his plots and what new forms of theater did he forge?
  • What cultural, political and religious factors influenced his writing?
  • How have the plays been staged and interpreted from Shakespeare’s time to now?
  • Why at different times has each play been popular — or ignored?
  • Why has this body of work endured so thoroughly?
  • What, in the end, makes Shakespeare unique?

A "winter's tale" was Jacobean slang for something fanciful and unreal - a campfire story. Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale," written during the period 1613-14, is classified as one of his late romances.

This is a play driven by passion and obsession, by the uncontrollable jealousy of King Leontes, who recklessly rejects his wife's love and accuses her of an affair with his old friend. Acting like a man possessed, he orders his friend killed and his pregnant wife imprisoned.

In 17th-century marriages, even royal ones, a wife believed guilty of adultery could indeed be brutally punished.

The play's second half, something of an idyllic comedy despite the stark and brutal first half of the play, returns the people Leontes thought he lost through one of the greatest theatrical coups of all time, a magic trick that uses no magic.

Beale shows that in this play, Shakespeare offers something for which everyone longs: to reverse time, to make amends for an irreversible mistake.

Watch On Your Schedule:

All 6 episodes from Season 3 are available for streaming on demand with KPBS Passport, video streaming for members ($60 yearly) using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.

Join The Conversation:

SHAKESPEARE UNCOVERED is on Facebook. #ShakespearePBS

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Credits:

Produced by Blakeway Productions, 116 Films and THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET in association with PBS and Shakespeare’s Globe. For Blakeway Productions, Richard Denton and Nicola Stockley are series producers. For THIRTEEN, Bill O’Donnell is series producer, with David Horn as executive producer. Stephen Segaller is executive in charge.