Richard III & Looking for Richard Paper

Published: 2021-09-11 08:10:09
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Category: William Shakespeare

Type of paper: Essay

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It is through the shaping of canonical texts that human experiences are reflected that connect to the values of their time. Composers are linked to the context of the various times, and they create ideas about those values through texts in order to convey universal meaning. These ideas are reshaped over time as ideologies are shifted throughout the evolution of humanity. Through Richard III, Shakespeare’s characterisation is moulded to shape ideas about ambition and morality through the desire of corruptive power. These ideas are explored through experiences of the human condition allowing contextually distant texts to connect universal values to society, that is then transformed in Pacino’s docudrama Looking for Richard. The refraining in textual structure and medium is essential to engage to a contemporary society, as well as different experiences of humanity across time to communicate transcending ideas of universal values.
The desire for power, established in Richard III as an instinctive trait, also forms the basis of Pacino’s message in Looking for Richard. The motivations behind Richard’s evil actions in obtaining regal office are revealed in the opening soliloquy through anaphora of “I that am not shaped… I that am rudely stamped”. The parallel syntax of these phrases places emphasis on the first person pronoun to stress Richard’s vendetta with society due to his disfigurement. His quest for the throne is also substantiated by an ambition to discover his purpose, whereby he resolves to “prove a villain” in response to his insecurities as “a lover”. However, in cultivating the facade of loyal subject and brother, Shakespeare establishes the dramatic irony that his intentions are monstrous, fuelling both the dramatic momentum and Tudor myth. This is reinforced in the film where the emphatic repetition of “deformed” and the chiaroscuro lighting illuminating only half his face further accentuates his malignity. Pacino draws upon current democratic realities to compare Richard’s fa?ade to “a politician complete with lies and innuendo”. The analogy illustrates the universal value of political power and Machiavellian influence, allowing responders to recognise the relevance of Shakespeare’s original play despite contextual distance.
The corruption of power through Richard’s endeavour to overthrow the moral dictates of the natural order in the Elizabethan era is redefined by Pacino in a postmodern context. Throughout the play he is described in diabolical terms such as “foul devil” and “cacodemon” to suggest the subversion of his moral values. His inhuman qualities are emphasised through Richmond as a character foil whose diving appraisal in “In God’s name March!” portrays him as a Messianic hero. Where the play functioned as political propaganda for Queen Elizabeth to discredit the House of York and invest her House of Lancaster with divine authority, the docudrama was made to question the relevance of Shakespeare n modern society and appeal to a contemporary audience. Therefore, although the biblical allusions do prevail in the film, there is a deviation from the emphasis on religion. Divine order becomes insignificant in Pacino’s democratic and increasingly secular context, here absolute monarchy is no longer valued. This is evident in Pacino’s reconstruction of the ghost scene in which he deliberately eliminates Shakespeare’s religious and supernatural motifs such as ghosts and divine retribution. Instead, he uses cinematic techniques such as flashbacks to his murdered victims and a flash forward to his own doom to encourage the audience to engage with Richard’s haunted conscience. Pacino’s focus on method acting and Freudian psychoanalysis locates corruption in the human psyche as opposed to Shakespeare’s use of the spiritual. Shakespeare explores how Richard undermines the theocentric worldview of Divine Right of Kings to reveal his corrupted nature in his pursuit of power. Pacino then creatively reshapes this to suit a modern audience and its associated standards of realism.
Shakespeare’s didactic purpose reiterates further the timeless value of morality present in the play as he explores the demoralisation of an individual stemming from power. Richard’s initial assertions that he is “unfinished” and “half-made up” suggest that he has doubts about his validity as a proper human being. This idea is supported by the accusations of him as “a toad”, “boar” or “bloody dog” where the animalistic imagery suggests that his obsession with power has rendered him inhuman in both deeds and appearance. There appears no limit to his immorality as depicted through Buckingham, portrayed as an incredibly evil individual himself, reveals his underlying moral limitation and his hesitation and request for “some little breath” upon Richard’s blunt demand, “I wish the bastards dead”. This in remarked upon similarly in the film where Everett states that “for a lot of people, there is a fundamental decency”, thus questioning the humanity of Richard due to his inability to emphasise with Buckingham’s reluctance. The panhandler in a vox pop shot reinforces Everett’s sentiments on morality, believing that an engagement with Shakespeare’s artistry grants a “feeling” that could help redress the ills of postmodern society. Pacino’s transformation of reframing contextual distance of texts to reinforce universal values, reaffirms the timeless ability of Shakespeare to instil meaning on contemporary responders.
Pacino’s depiction of evil reflects a movement from traditional perceptions shaped by religious mores to a postmodern context of humanism in Looking for Richard. Richard’s “deformed and unfinished” appearance, a metaphor for the external manifestation of evil, is portrayed in the film merely as a limp to maintain realism. Arguably, this is compensated in Pacino’s black costuming, a powerful metaphoric device through which he elucidates the evil nature of Richard. However, the mixture of Elizabethan and contemporary costuming makes the distinction between character and actor unclear. Pacino “lets the pursuit of power totally corrupt him, “highlighting the importance of self-expression and individualism, where he blurs the boundary between performance and reality. It illustrates the disparity between Pacino’s Richard and that of Shakespeare’s in regards towards the Elizabethan morals of truth and reality. Kimball also translates his deformity as “dramatically, visually, metaphorically representing the corruption of his mind”. Therefore, the film, in its depiction of Richard as psychologically flawed, rather than innately evil, introduces the more ambiguous modern interpretation of villainy. Shakespeare, in accordance with the Tudor myth, criticises Richard’s Machiavellian ambitions which have estranged him from the human qualities of morality and empathy. The film, however, in its more uncertain treatment of the human condition, acknowledges Richard for his humanistic ambition and ability, or rather Pacino’s, to play a role in the “insubstantial pageant” that modern life has become.
It is understood that both Richard III and Looking for Richard raise for responders the challenge of engaging with the perennial elements of the human condition. Juxtaposing analysis with performance, the film re-conceptualises the play, allowing contemporary audiences to recognise the relevance of Shakespeare’s contextual values that remain universal. Shakespeare and Pacino’s contraption of texts, reflect significant ideas about how ways of thinking have shifts across time. Through the reframing of contextually distant texts this allows contemporary audiences to engage as structures of texts have been created to inform each individual’s sense of humanity through the reflection of universal values.

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