Comparison Of Richard Iii And Looking For Richard

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Analysing the conceptual resonances and contextual dissonances between King Richard III (RIII) and Looking For Richard (LFR), enables audiences to interpret the textual features and context, which has enabled Pacino to modernise RIII. Through this comparative study, audiences are able to contrast how the notions of religion and frailty has changed under the democratisation of western societies. Further allowing audiences to grasp a deeper understanding of how Pacino’s LFR is influenced by the concepts and values present in Shakespeare’s RIII and how this shapes meaning. Additionally Pacinos recontextualisation of Shakespeare’s theocentric portrayal of Richards ambitions, enables contemporary audiences to re-evaluate the true nature of Richards character that has been predetermined by Shakespeare. This is done through the form of a docudrama, to accommodate for postmodern American audiences.

Religion (Richard)

Shakespeare examines religious influences and ramifications of Richard’s desire for power, through Richards tragic pursuit to usurp divine authority. Richards machiavellian characteristics enables him to chase his egocentric ambitions, “I am determined to prove a villain” suggesting Richards free will to seek power, rejecting the notion of determinism present in the Elizabethan era, hence going against ‘God’. During the scene of wooing Lady Anne, Richards clever use of language in an attempt to manipulate Lady Anne, to strive for king fails. This is shown as Anne personifies the Elizabethan physiognomic values, representing Richards physical deformities as a “Beast” which was seen as motivation to pursue evil as he is “deformed, unfinished”. Leading to the idea of Anne utilising her Elizabethan theocentric understanding of power, to determine Richards inevitable fate “O, cursèd be the hand that made these holes, Cursèd the heart that had the heart to do it” foreshadowing Richard’s tragic downfall as he strives for the crown. Shakespeare therefore reveals the significance of religion during the Elizabethan era in RIII, through the recurring motif of God.

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Pacino continues this textual conversation in LFR as he deviates away from the notion of theocentric authority, to suit postmodern American audiences in which they are more secular. At the opening of the film. Pacino contrasts between the fading medieval churches, symbolising the significance determinism in Shakespeare’s RIII, against a modern streetscape, demonstrating free will to highlight the contextual shift between LFR and RIII. By doing so, audiences are able to understand how Pacino is influenced by these concepts and values, ultimately allowing him to shape his own composition of RIII. The scene where Pacino is walking through the streets, Vox-pop is established to enable audiences to have their own postmodern interpretations of RIII whilst interviewing bystanders. Through this, Pacino continues to reject the concept of theological determinism, insisting that “a person has an opinion… it’s never a question of right or wrong,” valuing the subjectiveness of postmodern interpretations. Pacino therefore rejects Shakespeare’s ideology of determinism, revealing the effect of contextual dissonances between medieval and 1990s American audiences.


In Shakespeare’s play, Anne’s frailty is conveyed during the wooing scene, where the rhetorical sparring between Anne and Richard “sweet saint … foul devil,” and “for charity … for God’s sake” highlights Richards attempt to woo Anne to be ineffective. However when Richard offers her protection in her “bedchamber” she slowly becomes swayed, as seen through the change of language “with all my heart” and “To see you come so penitent”. Suggesting that her weakness is due to her precarious social position as a widow, restricting her from inheriting money or property as opposed to a weakness of the body or willpower, therefore allowing Richard to exploit her to achieve his political ambitions, adding to his relentless machiavellian characteristics.

However, due to contextual dissonances in which social hierarchy is viewed. Pacino embodies his own contemporary understanding of the play, implying that Anne agreed to marry Richard due to her nativity rather than her awareness of her social position. This is emphasised through the lingering gaze close-ups to explain Anne’s questionable frailty through a romantic scene of seduction. As a result Pacino casts a younger Lady Anne to portray her weak, defenceless characterisation that is represented through her youthful costume, “I want to cast someone very young … As young as you can and be able to do Shakespeare, and understand the scene,”, reflecting Richard’s more modern view of women. Therefore enabling postmodern audiences to see the contextual shift in social hierarchy, valuing the concept of being able to work to gain wealth.

Comparatively examining both conceptual resonances and contextual dissonances between texts allows audiences to better engage in textual conversations, surrounding the concepts religion and frailty. Ultimately the purpose of texts, textually conversing ens readers to understand RIII, by realising how Pacino’s LFR is influenced by the concepts and values present in Shakespeare’s RIII. 


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