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Acting Shakespeare (1982)

Ian McKellen , Kirk Browning  |  NR |  DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Ian McKellen
  • Directors: Kirk Browning
  • Writers: Ian McKellen, William Shakespeare
  • Producers: Andrew Susskind, David Susskind, Ricki Green
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: E1 Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: January 12, 2010
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002SF9YMU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,376 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Acting Shakespeare" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Alone on stage, with no props or costumes, distinguished and celebrated actor Ian McKellen performs some of the most striking monologues from Shakespeare’s masterpieces. With wit and humor, McKellen continues this amazing one man show by discussing his relationship with theatre and offering a discourse on some of the greatest plays of all time.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
79 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Shakespeare November 19, 2009
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I saw this video in my high school British Lit. class in 1986 and was mesmerized. I was not a particular fan of Shakespeare at the time, was in fact one of those kids who found Shakespeare mostly boring and irrelevant, but this turned me on to all that Shakespeare can be and why he has remained popular for so long. I have been a huge fan of Ian McKellan ever since; he is superb in this. I have been looking for this video for years, checking McKellan's website, ebay and everywhere I could think of, so I was so excited when I googled the title today, and found it on Amazon! I cannot recommend McKellan's _Acting Shakespeare_ highly enough. It remains, in my memory, the best theatre -- Shakespeare or otherwise -- that I have ever seen. It is just Ian McKellan on a bare stage, no props or costumes as far as I remember, performing monologues from several Shakespearian plays and commenting on the plays and characters and how he approaches them. The simplicity is perhaps part of what makes this so beautifully done. As it hasn't been released yet, I cannot comment on the technical quality of the sound or video. My hope is that the reason they took so long to release it is because they were picky about getting the audio and video quality right. Anyway, it is superb.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than remembered February 15, 2010
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I first saw Ian McKellen's 'Acting Shakespeare' on PBS some 24-25 years ago and loved it for how he made Shakespeare's words come alive with new meaning. I then saw him perform it live in San Francisco in 1987 and have longed to see it again ever since. Viewing this DVD brought back these memories, but was also surprising - the performance is even better than I remembered it and has awakened even more meaning in Shakespeare's words for me.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Real Thing June 11, 2010
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Re. the comments by Krupa concerning the 'Macbeth' section of 'Acting Shakespeare', it should be noted that McKellen's ACTUAL full stage performance of 'MacBeth' -- far superior to the excerpts in his mostly terrific one-man show -- is itself available on DVD through Amazon, and here's the link:

This is the great (1978) Royal Shakespeare Company production directed by Trevor Nunn, with a thrillingly brilliant performance by McKellen in the title role, and also featuring an unforgettable performance by Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth. It's as close as I've ever seen anyone come to a definitive production of the play. And, needless to say, I can't recommend it highly enough to any admirer of Shakespeare or Mr. McKellen (or Ms. Dench).

As an interesting side-note, Laurence Olivier did a legendary stage 'Macbeth' as well, but his by-all-accounts magnificent performance (listed by countless critics, theatre historians, and fellow actors as one of his very finest) is sadly lost to the ages because Olivier was unable raise the requisite funding to make a once-planned film version of it. Hard to believe, eh, with all the mediocre and mindless cinema that HAS been funded over the years?!
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kings, Villians and Lovers: A Masterful One-Man Show March 21, 2010
By Cat
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
In many a theater class, I've often felt saddened when I would watch a well-delivered monologue or scene from fellow actors, knowing they would never been seen again. It's bitter-sweet to witness a moment of brilliance but never be able to describe it or ever see it duplicated. Actors are on an endless pursuit to understand the meaning of what they speak and to find the right actions for the words. Especially with Shakespeare's works, an actor may spend months with one monologue but after all his effort, still not understand how to speak the words. Even great actors like Ian McKellen have had to disect Shakespeare's text in order to understand what is going on in the scene. He was part of John Barton's "Playing Shakespeare" workshop that shows the actor at a very basic level, how to technically approach Shakespeare just by analysing the text. I'm of the opinion Sir McKellen was born great, but his understanding of Shakespeare took time and fortunately for us, the culmination of his years dedicated to mastering the words have been preserved. McKellen embarks on his one-man Shakespeare show by performing several monologues on a bare stage, weaving them together expertly, and peppered with anecdotes about Shakespeare's life. I'm rather fond of Richard III and his performance of the disfigured tyrant was an absolute gift. It's not necessary to have read any of the plays to fully appreciate this performance. McKellen has done the work; all we need to do is listen.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And I Wish I Could Give It Five Stars... February 28, 2010
By Krupa
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
First, let me say that there's essentially nothing wrong with this DVD. It offers to the viewer dramatic work by a truly great actor doing something he does exceptionally well: acting Shakespeare. And in this, McKellen delivers splendidly. In soliloquy after soliloquy and character after character, he shows his true passion for Shakespeare's art, and in a way that justifies his solid reputation as a major classical actor of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

But...I gotta tell ya...I have a problem with this DVD, which affects my opinion of it in a very personal way.

So...take what I'm about to say with a healthy grain of salt, okay?

You see, I saw Sir Ian perform this show live in 1987 in Boston. And I can tell every reader that when he performed the "Macbeth" segments toward the end, it was nothing short of jaw-dropping, frightening. Almost unbelievable.

Here, in this taped 1982 broadcast, he does a masterful job, to be sure (I just watched it tonight). But for some years now I've been aware that this show had been taped in 1982, and I had searched the Internet for it. And for years I found that it was unavailable on DVD and VHS. And I hoped that it would someday be released on DVD. Because I hoped that the level of intensity he gave to those final minutes of "Macbeth" would have been in his performance here. I remember that, between speeches, his Macbeth rotated very slowly, clicking his shoes on the stage, in small and claustrophobic circles, the character gradually imploding, and moaning like a lost ghost. By the end of the great "tomorrow and tomorrow" speech, when he arrived at the line "a tale told by an idiot," the great actor was deliberately slurring the words a bit so as to sound idiotic.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Most amazing piece of Shakespeare gold imaginable. A must-have!
Published 8 days ago by Cplza
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful one man show by a true living legend
I was lucky enough to see this live when I was a teenager, and did not know it was available on DVD. It's a wonderful one-man show by a true living legend.
Published 11 days ago by S. Ferguson
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommend
Saw on PBS so many years ago,and when saw it available here,had to buy it on Prime Instant.Sir Ian is perfect with his "Master Class" on the different plays. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ellen
5.0 out of 5 stars Brush up your understanding of Shakespeare!
Anyone who teaches Shakespeare, whether it is "Romeo and Juliet" (can't do italics here, so have to use quotes), Julius Caesar, MacBeth, Hamlet, etc., should watch this. Read more
Published 2 months ago by R. S. Harris
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite moments: his analysis of Macbeth's soliloquy
I was in the front row for the first performance McKellen did in Westwood, CA. What a night! It's a master class in Shakespeare, taught by one of the leading performers of the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Serai
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST for any student of theater
The Greats of today talk/show "how to act" from the actors point of view. Ian McKellan, Judy Dench, many others. Read more
Published 6 months ago by D. Koch
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential viewing for all English speakers
What is there not to like about Ian McKellen "acting Shakespeare"? Funny, serious, thrilling - absolutely amazing performance. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Prudence S Posner
3.0 out of 5 stars Ian McKellen is great, but the DVD was technically below the standard...
The performance is 5 star, but the DVD quality is definitely below what I expected. I had seen the item from a different source and it was markedly of a better quality, almost in... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Bryan Ansley
4.0 out of 5 stars Gandalf talks of his days at Hogwarts
Great actor hams it up for an appreciative audience (including yt) and reveals fascinating details of his early years. (yes, I know Hogwarts is from JK R and Gandalf is JRR T.)
Published 8 months ago by Cryo Dunce
4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Performance
A one man show, McKellen explains how to find motivations for the performances, Then he proceeds to perform many of the longer speeches in Shakespeare. Read more
Published 8 months ago by MrsLee
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