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Looking for Richard & Richard III: Discovering the Nature of Power

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 5 (1139 words)
Categories: Morality, Nature, Philosophy, Power, Social science, Society, Sociology, The Nature
Downloads: 36
Views: 7

“Never again will a single story be told as though it is the only one”. John Berger

For centuries, the representation of corruption and manipulation by powerbrokers has been embedded in texts, and replicated over time to accommodate contextual values, which serve to warn humankind about the impact of duplicity and ambition on values, such as personal integrity. Through engaging in a textual conversation with a canonical text, Al Pacino’s postmodern docu-drama ‘Looking for Richard’ reimagines the William Shakespeare’s historical tragedy ‘King Richard III’, adhering to the societal values of the late twentieth century context, and engaging audiences in a cultural debate about the relevance of Shakespeare.

Comparing common and disparate values and issues arising within each texts central focus, highlights Berger’s observation through positioning responders to understand the intertextual correlation of the modern adaptation with the earlier text, and gain clarity on the mirrored quest to maintain a moral fa?ade and the pursuit of power.

Through the illumination of different attitudes presented towards an individual’s quest to maintain a moral fa?ade and to conceal one’s true identity, this dichotomy between appearance and reality is constructed by Shakespeare in his ‘King Richard III’ through his moral condemnation of an individual’s duplicity, which is then reshaped by Al Pacino in ‘Looking for Richard’ in his contemporary reimagining of Richard as a secular anti-hero, further highlighting the considerable extent to which Berger’s statement is true for this intertextual study. A cynical attitude towards an individual’s feigned moral pretence is initially presented by Shakespeare through his depiction of Richard III who works to conceal his underlying Machiavellian intentions throughout the play, as established in his opening soliloquy, “plots I have laid· to set my brother and the king / in deadly hate,” whereby Shakespeare has Richard’s deviousness and “devil[ish]· plots” eventually lead to his demise, illuminated by the Elizabethan worldview that the immoral acts of deceit and manipulation are ultimately destructive to the individual and the natural order. However, contrary to Shakespeare’s moral didacticism in which he condemns Richard as a vice character, Pacino is less concerned with the moral aspects of “truth” and “deceit”, highlighting a psychoanalytic view of Richard as a man who “does not have his own humanity” and “cannot receive love”, reflective of the twentieth century’s secular sympathy for the death of “a tragic hero”. An emphasis on Richard’s “frightfully clever” ability to “manipulate” others is also illuminated through Pacino’s docudrama form – with fluid cuts between Vox pops, rehearsal, interview and performance – serving to simplify and relate this understanding of Richard’s deceptive political manoeuvres to modern-day politicians, further echoed through the Gospel song, where Richard “has got the whole world in his hands” and that “leaders have total contempt” in “treaties and diplomatic pacts”, the resonant concern being the duplicitous nature of modern day politicians as well as earlier ones. Through this reinterpreting of the Shakespearean tragedy to “communicate a Shakespeare that is about… how we think today”, and aligning this reframing with the initial portrayal of the decline of a power-hungry individual due to duplicitous actions, Shakespeare’s moral concern with Richard’s duplicity is diminished by the 1990’s obsession with psychoanalysis of human motivation and behaviour, however, is supported by the continuity of the Elizabethan need in Pacino’s society, to present a morally acceptable fa?ade to conceal one’s true identity, continuing to resonate with modern audiences and reflecting upon the significance of context in reshaping central attitudes, illuminating the considerable extent to which the originality of later texts is diminished through the replication of resonant values.

Furthermore, a deeper understanding of context in which later composers such as Al Pacino is influenced by, provides the audience with clarity on the evolving attitudes towards how an individual’s pursuit of power is ultimately detrimental to the human experience, and the how this contextual value is continuously replicated in texts over time. The damaging nature of this relentless pursuit of power is illuminated by Shakespeare through Act 4, Scene 2 in which Shakespeare has Richard order Tyrell to kill the two rightful heirs to the throne, “two deep enemies… say it is done / and I will love thee,” whereby it is evident that both characters resort to unscrupulous acts in their thirst for power, as elucidated though recognizing Shakespeare’s assertion of the ‘Divine Right of Kings’ in his condemnation of Richard’s engagement in Machiavellian politics. Conversely, a focus on power as a human construct is seen in Pacino’s remoulding of the Shakespearean play, whereby he seeks to draw parallels between the power struggles in Shakespeare’s 16th century play and the political reality within his own society, illuminating the secular attitude towards the “pursuit of power” through his role as a director, likening Richard’s attempts of gaining power to “politicians, complete with lies and innuendo,”. Conversely, the perspective that the corruptive quest for power is one that is doomed to fail is portrayed by Shakespeare in the final act though Richard’s desperate final lines, “A horse, a horse, a kingdom for horse!” whereby his power is reduced to nothing, clarified when examining Shakespeare’s theocentric worldview that such disruptions to the Great Chain of Being must be met with divine consequences and further echoed through the structured use of iambic pentameter. Comparably, Pacino deepened the understanding of the meaningless of the pursuit for power, evident as the voiceover from the final scene of the docudrama recites its opening lines from ‘The Tempest’, “and like the baseless fabric of this vision· the great globe itself· will dissolve,” and the film fades to black, whereby life becomes an “insubstantial pageant” and the circularity of the docudrama reinforces both the purposelessness of power and implies a sense of uncertainly within the modern era – a reflection of late twentieth century postmodernist philosophy – and directly contrasts to the historical belief in an afterlife and the classic Elizabethan restoration of order in Shakespeare’s concluding “Amen”. Thus, through the study of the intertextual conversations evident between Shakespeare’s “Richard III” and Pacino’s “Looking for Richard”, responder’s are positioned to understand that despite a contextual secular shift, attitudes towards the pursuit of power echo resonant values and challenge notions such as divine retribution with the introduced concept of postmodernism, further illuminating the idea that all later texts are reflective of earlier ones through the parallels in societal values.

Consequently, through an intertextual appreciation and examination of Pacino – in a contextualised reshaping of Shakespeare’s craft – responder’s are positioned to acknowledge the transformation of precedential ideas in later assumptions, reflecting the attitudes towards duplicitous actions and the societal necessity for maintaining an acceptable moral fa?ade, as well as the consequences of the pursuit of power. The underlying significance of textual conversations in understanding the continuity of resonant values and the considerable extent to which the originality of later texts is diminished by parallels drawn between societal contexts.

Cite this essay

Looking for Richard & Richard III: Discovering the Nature of Power. (2019, Dec 05). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/looking-for-richard-richard-iii-discovering-the-nature-of-power-essay

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