“Comparing connected texts emphasises a need for contemporary composers to reframe values that are contextually distant.”
The Power of Language, Duplicity and Morality assists with the revisiting and exploration of universality. Al Pacino’s Looking For Richard (1996) reframes Shakespeare’s work King Richard III and illuminates how these universalities have remained unchanged yet, there are still dissonances within them. Language is a universality as composers are constantly exploring where the power of language originates from, all texts and people desire language which embraces meaning and is morally righteous.
The universality of language is that it is sought from a point of authority and responds to culture. The exploration of what it is to be a moral human being is a resonating concern as all societies value morality despite contextual distances and other dissonances such as language.
Duplicity is represented as universal in Shakespeare’s King Richard III, as it resounds with the religious moral values of society. Shakespeare’s perception of duplicity alludes to the context whereby the Tudor Myth was established, he glorified the Tudors and cleverly addressed the instability of the nation caused by Queen Elizabeth’s lack of a reigning heir.
This is showcased through Richard’s duplicitous actions, contradicting the morality evoked in the Great Chain of Being. “Shall I be plain? I wish the bastards dead” Shakespeare’s deliberate use of a pun to convey the double entendre of the word ‘bastards’ accentuates his duplicity to harm the children, further cementing Shakespeare’s intention of vilifying the Yorks.
Richard’s use of hyperbole highlights his expertise in manipulation ” · So I might live one hour in your sweet bosom.” allowing him to seduce Lady Anne. Enforced through his use of a pun, “·I will deliver or else lie for you” mirroring his duplicity as he simultaneously manipulates both Clarence and the audience. Composers consistently address the universal concern of the need for moral virtues and in Shakespeare’s case, duplicity is undoubtedly immoral. His moral certainty is derived from God, enabling responders to subconsciously despise the Yorks, glorifying the Tudor rule aligning with the audience’s morals with religious judgement.
Although both texts resonate the notion of duplicity and morality, it transitions into a dissonance due to the contextual distance. Duplicity is recognised as a moral value in Looking For Richard as it is fundamental to Pacino achieving the purpose of the text; to elevate Shakespeare in American society. Pacino addresses the universal concern for the need to rectify the political turmoil within the American society through the portrayal of several personas. Pacino’s subtle implementation of synecdoche, through the closeup of the students in the back row making out, implies that Americans are oblivious to present social issues. Pacino’s unique representation of duplicity through the application of quick editing in the scene where King Edward lays on a sickbed, allows him to drift between the identities of ‘Pacino the Richard’ and ‘Pacino the scholar’. His duplicitous actions emphasise his intention of educating the American nation. Pacino’s duplicity gradually melds into one character, reflecting Richard as villainous by the end of the drama. “You must get me out of this. Get me out of this documentary!” his abrupt attitude towards other guests is unlike his previous personas; justifying his noble goal. Pacino, therefore, explores duplicity as it’s a universal concern of artists to explore the nature of morality. The significant discord between Richard III and Looking for Richard is that Pacino’s conclusion is far more flexible as he draws the conclusion that morality is being able to justify actions, rather than defined by divine retribution.
The resonating concern of language encapsulates the universal virtue of the human experience.
Shakespeare identifies that God is the entity that speaks with language closely paired with meaning. Prayers, curses and prophecies are words which are derived from God as they profoundly impacted the drama. Richard’s paradoxical conversation with God through striving to obey a prophecy while simultaneously altering his predetermined fate displays his inability to speak the language of God. Richard conveys exceptionally manipulative language through deceiving the mayor into believing his allegiance to God. “·And see, a book of prayer in his hand…” Shakespeare’s use of religious motifs allow the citizens to perceive him as a sage, however, his self-contradictions revealed his true intentions. Grey’s use of elision emphasises that curses are directly procured from God, “Now Margaret’s curse is fall’n upon our heads· ” As it foreshadows Richard’s hamartia, it is, therefore, the most powerful. The rule of threes portrayed in Richmond’s uplifting and inclusive oration, “In Gods name, cheerly on, courageous friends·” allows him to exhibit his reverence to God. This allows the responders to deem him as the rightful monarch to represent a divine figure on Earth. However, Richard’s paradoxical treatment of prayers, curses and prophecies reveals his sinful and God-defying nature, depicting his unworthiness to be king. Shakespeare allowed the responder to successfully deduce Richard as a manipulator through his clever use of language as he solely speaks the language of himself rather than God’s. Ultimately, Richard’s lack of structure and disobedience of going against the language of God portrays the universality that all texts seek a point of authority and that the ruling monarch needs to respect it.
Similarly, Pacino’s perspective of the power of language is derived from a figure of authority. Shakespeare’s cultural significance has permanently influenced the area of literature. Pacino reframes the power of language by portraying Shakespeare as authoritative. The scene where Pacino completely silences to allow the homeless man to decipher the purpose of Shakespeare displays Pacino’s intentions. “·You know why? Because then the kids would have feelings” The implementation of hypophora insinuates the presence of a resonating universal concern; languages have lacked meaning for many years, aiding humans to perform inhumane actions. The tonal shift between the homeless man and Redgrave exerts the cause of the lack of feelings within the American language, enforcing the need for Pacino to address this cultural concern. “·thoughts and the concepts and the feelings have not been divorced from the words· ” Redgrave explores this through the rule of threes, however, no divine reason is given. Conversely, the homeless man mirrors Pacino’s belief that Shakespeare is a figure of authority and the power of language is obtained from him. The low angle shot of the homeless man establishes dominance and recognition as it confirms that his evaluation is reflective of Pacino’s “but if we meant what we said, then we would say less and mean more” The power of language is a universality and all composers respond to this despite being contextually distant. Both Shakespeare and Pacino believe that language transcends from a heightened position to the speaker. For Shakespeare, this position is of God, but for Pacino, it was Shakespeare.
The revisiting of language and morality is necessitated by its universality, despite the contextual distance. These notions resonate between both Al Pacino’s docudrama and Shakespeare’s drama of King Richard III. Language is a universality as composers are constantly exploring where the power of language comes from as all texts and people desire language which embraces meaning and is morally righteous.
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