The Textual Techniques In Richard III And Looking For Richard

Every text underpins the context of its society steered by the personal motivation of the composer. This notion is displayed in both ‘Richard III’ by William Shakespeare and ‘Looking for Richard’ directed by Al Pacino 1996. This essay will discuss, the textual techniques employed to exacerbate the explicit and implicit connections between the texts and conversely discuss how the individual’s context, changes there understanding, values and ideas.

Richard III is considered one of Shakespeare's most duplicitous and evil characters, with no straight forward motivation and lack of morals, this allows the audience to gain no connection or empathy for Richard furthering this concept. Richard's reign is portrayed as a period in which nothing is considered sacred this shows Richard as a Machiavellian character such as when, Richard betrays his friends and murders his family, to become king. In the film, ‘Looking for Richard’ Al Pacino’s intention is to communicate his passion for Shakespeare and reach a contemporary society, consequently, it shows scenes to further this point of view, this was a personal project for Pacino and he states the purpose of the film is to communicate “a Shakespeare that is about how we feel and how we think today”.

Ambition is a common value, that shows the connections between ‘King Richard III’ and ‘Looking for Richard’. Richard's ambitions centre around ideas of power, honour, fame and wealth and Richards's ambition attain this is an unstoppable force, excelled through Richards lies and deceptions, furthering his Machiavellian stance. Richards soliloquy inline 335 “With a piece of scripture… I clothe my naked villainy… and seem a saint when most I play the devil” is a metaphor for Richards's manipulation and a motif for the different roles Richard uptakes to suit his situation additionally, this religious allusion allows connotations to Richard’s Machiavellian nature. Furthermore, the line “Should I be plain? I wish the bastards dead.” provides further examples of a Machiavellian character. Al Pacino manipulates the audience through cutaways, pushing the audience's attention to a specific scene to highlight the ambition explicitly connecting the text and their audience when an academic states “the feelings have not been divorced from the words. In England, you’ve had centuries in which words have divorced from the truth”. The techniques of Juxtaposition and vox populi interviews reflect the contrasting perceptive. With the quote from the public “we have no feelings in our words. But if we felt what we said, we’d say less and mean more. Spare some change?”. Furthermore, the Academic states “Shakespeare…the greatest drama we’ve got”, “He’s thinking about human beings as actors… and imagination”. Consequently, the texts are enhanced through differing contexts and text types, Richard’s obsessive ambition and desire for the throne and final scenes of ‘Looking for Richard’ is an explicit connection, that depicts Richard as a coward mirroring Shakespeare’s version.

Power is explored in the two contexts by its assertion and distribution, thus showing its importance, discussed in the quote “Cheated of feature by dissembling nature / deformed, unfinished” this uses the technique of symbolism reflects Richard’s awareness to his physical appearance, which in Elizabethan context was symbolic of evil, demonstrating Richards unimportance and lower-class status in society. As Richard innately has no power due to his physical deformity he feels he must acquire it by any means possible, disregarding the religious values of Shakespeare’s context, this shown when Richard deceives Lady Anne, “I must be married to my brother’s daughter, Or else my kingdom stands on brittle glass. Murder her brothers, and then marry her- Uncertain way of gain” the use of imagery highlights the power Richard believes he will achieve by manipulating Anne into marriage. As well, Stichomythia in the lines Richard- “divine perfection of a women”, Anne- “Diffused infection of man” shows Anne as the juxtaposition of Richard, this highlights the values of the Shakespearian context as the reigning monarchs during the time of Shakespeare opposed the Machiavellian values of Richard. Similarly, the value of power is apparent in Pacino’s portrayal of Richard and how Richards Machiavellian values of power contributed to his rise and fall. This is shown in Pacino’s post-modern documentary. An example of this is when Pacino uses method acting to portray a scene of both Richard and himself Knighting a fellow actor, the dramatic action of his fellow actor kneeling symbolises the supposed power Richard has, supported by the technique of staging. Power connects both texts, however, the values of Shakespearean and Pacino’s society place differing value on power and status, the values of Pacino’s society of twentieth-century America, places less value on social class to determine a person ‘worth’ than Shakespeare’s whom determined class by wealth and power. The re-imagination of Richard in ‘Looking for Richard’ is utilized for the contextual purpose of the texts.

Therefore, the personal context of the composers allows for the distortion of the text to suit the audience and the motivation of the composer. Values are shown by the re-imagination of the characters in the texts, such as scenes depicting Richard losing the battle and cowardly submitting his kingdom for a slight advantage, “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!” showing the value Richard places upon power as he innately lacks it due to his physical deformity. Pacino and Richard both depict this scene providing an argument for its textual importance and is an explicit connection to both texts. Power is also highlighted as this Richards main motivation for his ‘immoral’ actions. As such the re-imagination of the characters is utilized to suit the context of the society and the values of the composers.    

07 July 2022
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