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Exploring Connections: 'Richard III' and 'Looking for Richard'

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Aaron Dewhurst

on 21 May 2013

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Transcript of Exploring Connections: 'Richard III' and 'Looking for Richard'

Exploring Connections:
'Richard III'
&
'Looking for Richard' This module requires students to compare texts in order to explore them in relation to their contexts. It develops students’ understanding of the effects of context and questions of value. Each elective in this module requires the study of groups of texts which are to be selected from a prescribed text list. These texts may be in different forms or media. Students examine ways in which social, cultural and historical context influences aspects of texts, or the ways in which changes in context lead to changed values being reflected in texts. This includes study and use of the language of texts, consideration of purposes and audiences, and analysis of the content, values and attitudes conveyed through a range of readings.
Students develop a range of imaginative, interpretive and analytical compositions that relate to the comparative study of texts and context. These compositions may be realised in a variety of forms and media. Syllabus Rubric Syllabus Rubric
Comparative Study of Texts and Context In this elective students will explore how meanings of a pair of texts can be shaped and reshaped by considering the nature of the connections between them.Exploration of the connections between texts will enhance understanding of the values and contexts of each text. Relationships between these texts may be implicit or explicit.Connections may be established through direct or indirect references, contexts, values, ideas, and the use of language forms and features. Prescriptions Rubric
Exploring Connections William Shakespeare's Context 'Richard III' is a representation of English history shaped by the understanding and interpretation of that period of history when the play was written and first performed and also presents an interpretation of history shaped by Elizabethan concerns in the early 1590s and the wider context of the Renaissance values and belief.

It is a representation of English history shaped by the conventions and fashions of the theatre in the early 1590s and Shakespeare's approach to drama at the beginning of his career.

The Renaissance period (c 1300-mid1600s) saw the dominant Christian culture, and associated codes, become redefined and challenged by a revival of Greek and Roman pagan culture and by changes in science. It was a period of tension between traditional religious, political and social institutions and challenged traditional ways of understanding the world and humanity. Al Pacino's Context 'Looking for Ricahrd' is a representation of Shakespeare's 'Richard III' shaped by the understanding and interpretation of the play when the docudrama was written and film. It is influenced by contemporary secular views, postmodern literary views and American Hollywood entertainment influences.

It is a representation of 'Richard III' shaped by the conventions and fashions of film-making in the late 1990s and Pacino's approach to the play, film making and the Bard at the peak of his career.

Postmodernism emerged in the mid-20th Century as a reaction to world events which encouraged increased questioning of humanity. It was a period of tension between traditional religious, political and social institutions and challenged traditional ways of understanding the world and humanity. In particular, notions of absolute truth were questioned, the constructed nature of texts and art was heightened and the tragic nature of life was represented in an authentic and raw form. Similarly, notions of who has the authority to write an official history and who has the right to dictate high and low art emerged. Pacino's docudrama explore key facets of this literary period. Sources of Truth/Knowledge/Guidance L4R suggests the constant, fluid search for meaning. The fragmented structure of the text, the organic nature of the text, as influenced by the postmodern context, supports the notion that there is a debunking of canonical texts and grand narratives such as the Tudor Myth.

RIII, through the characterisation of Richard, suggests that Christianity and the Monarchy are the most reliable forms of absolute and fixed truth. The Divine Right of Kings and Chain of being perpetuate the Tudor Myth as fact. However, implictly the villainous nature of Richard's character urges audiences to consider the true validity of such a doctrine in a subversive and subtle manner by Shakespeare.

The play 'Richard III' thus reflects constrasts and tensions in beliefs and values, including extreme versions of Renaissance Christianity and the classical tradition of revenge, and tensions between traditional religion and humanism.Amidst the contextual background of a newly installed Prostestantism under Elizabeth I's rule, Shakespeare creates a dramatic world that involves a strong appeal to Christian religiousness and an ambiguous appeal to a traditional sense of divine authority and Protestant concern with individual conscience. The play is a historical tragedy which celebrates kingship, the divine right of kings and the chain of being. The play includes extreme inferences regarding the divine nature of kingship despite the violent ambition and rivalry that threaten to destroy the English monarchy.

The rise of the Tudor monarch, as an ancestry of the House of Lancaster, prior to Shakespeare's time coincided the end of the War of the Roses which concluded with the defeat of Richard III of the House of York. Thus, the Tudors have a vested interest in perpetuating the mythology of their divine right to rule.

Shakespeare's purpose, therefore, was not only to present a performance of a demonised version of Richard III, in accordance with the Tudor Myth, but also, as a dramatic text, to provide a form of entertainment. Thus,, reading 'Richard III' in its historical context stresses that history is a combination of facts and interpretation. Amidst the contextual background of a rise in secularism in western civilisation, Pacino creates a filmic world that involves a strong appeal to debunking the canonical status of Shakespeare for the general population but ironically a simultaneous ambiguous appeal to an academic pursuit of the meaning of Shakespeare.

As a leading American actor, Pacino juxtaposes scenes from 'Richard III', scenes of rehearsal for the play, and sessions where parties involved discuss the play, the times that shaped the play and the events that happened at the time the play is set. Interviews with mostly British actors are also included, attempting to explain why American actors have more problems performing Sheakespearean plays than they do. Pacino's position in the Hollywood canon was established in the 1970s where he became and enduring and iconic figure, in particular in the genre of crime drama and action. He is recognised for his trademark volcanic, smoke-burnished voice and his position of masculine power and authority in his films.

Furthermore, Pacino is influenced by his American context in terms of political and economical institutions, the rise of feminism in the late 20th Century, the popularity of film and modern storytelling techniques (including method acting) and the USA as the most recent global power/empire.

Pacino's purpose, therefore, was not only to present a film version of Shakespeare's representation in 'Richard III', but also, as a documentary text, to provide insight into the creative process. Thus, viewing 'Looking for Richard' in its historical context stresses that representation is an organic process and open to constant shaping and reshaping as suggested by the hybridity of the genre itself. Agenda (explicit and implicit) of the Composer In L4R Pacino purports to have the agenda of bringing Shakespeare to the masses and to popularise/demystify the canonical status of the text while also demonstrating his own passion. However, this purpose is later implicitly surrendered as the advice of British scholars is given considerable credibility

Shakespeare's primary aim of entertainment through the creation of a Machiavellian villain modelled on the traditions of the Morality plays and Senecan Tragedies is evident from the very first soliloquy. However, underlying this entertertainment is the influence of the Tudor Myth under Elizabeth I's rule and the intentions to demonise the final historical figurehead of the House of York. The Notion and use of Genre Pacino's use of the docudrama genre is a reflection of his postmodern context in that it rejects the structures of rigid genre distinctions and is fragmented in is narrative form. The bricolage of montages, voice-overs, vox-populi, dramatic performances, method acting, hand-held camera, interviews with scholars and frequent reflexivity and self-consciousness urges the audience to question the reliability and authority of Pacino's role as director.

Shakespeare's use of the tragedy form in his compilation of a historical text serves to create more engaging, entertaining protagonist. Richard's fatal flaw of ambition and his Machiavellian ways serves to unravel his ascent to power as mirrored by the Five Act structure and revealed through the dramatic irony and soliloquies whereby Richard's true villainous and duplicitous nature is revealed. The meta-dramatic features of the text serve to subtly highlight man's fallible nature and encourage the Humanist beliefs of destiny ruled by man's own hand despite supernatural and determinism notions pervading the Elizabethan context. Implicit Connections Between the Texts Explicit Connections Between the Texts Notions of Sprituality Pacino's "search" to enrich his understanding of 'Richard III' and Shakespeare culminates in the scene where he visits Shakespeare's birthplace. The farcical tone of this scene through his expected "epiphany" highlights the growth in secularism in contemporary society.

Shakespeare's text is shaped by the Christian society which pervades all aspects of the text. The premise of the Divine Right of Kings is the basis upon which the War of the Roses was established and, from a contemporary perspective, Shakespeare's text now highlights the hypocrisy associated with such a doctrine. Nevertheless, Richard's use of Christianity, as highlighted in the balcony scene where he appears between two bishops holding a Bible, demonstrates the value placed on the institution of the Church which was synonymous with the monarch in the Elizabethan era. Self-fashioning and Self-Promotion Role, Perception and Depiction of Women The Power, Use and Misuse of Language The Notion of the Actor Pacino makes use of his trademark form of acting preparation as he prepares for the role of Richard through the tactic of method acting. The blurring of the line between actor, director, writer and character not only reiterates the hybrid nature of the genre, but also brings to the fore the audience's awareness of the constructed nature of Pacino's text and, in turn, reshapes our understanding of the play when we realise it is equally as constructed.

Shakespeare's representation of Richard as the virtuoso actor and use of metadramatic features such as the character's frequently musings that he is the vice, Iniquity, illustrates the falsity of his true identity and his truly manipulative and duplicitous nature. The dramatic irony which pervades the text positions the audience to view Richard with suspicion, fear and scepticism. 'Richard III' by William Shakespeare http://www.stagework.org.uk/mckellen/mckellen_assets/mckellen_fullscreen-tc.htm Notions of Power and Powerplay
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