"An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told.” This quote from William Shakespeare’s King Richard III is a seed from which Al Pacino’s docu-drama Looking For Richard grows, both texts demonstrating the intrinsic relationship between contexts and the composition of texts. As 21st century students, we see Pacino’s creative reshaping emphasise inherent values within the original text, from dynamic perspectives to interpretational understandings, presented in an ‘honest’ and ‘plainly told’ composition. The parallels drawn between the texts stem from the contextual challenge to the responders inherent within each text, along with equivalence to the dynamic perspectives and differing interpretations of the creative reshaping.
King Richard III and Looking For Richard are compositional products that directly correlate to historical and social contexts respectively, the latter drawing on the former’s challenge to the context in which it was written. Shakespeare’s late sixteenth century play was crafted in a turbulent time of rigid political and religious adherence, and written under the weight of sectarian distrust and forced political alignment to the reigning Tudors. Thus, Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard as a Yorkist focus’s on his devilish and Machiavellian nature. Written eight decades earlier, Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince asserts that an effective ruler should abandon traditional Christian virtues and morality to grow in power at any cost: ‘Politics have no relation to morals.’ This view of power and politics indicates a shift to a secular notion of leadership. Richard is, to a degree, a Machiavel; he calls himself a devil, ‘Thus like the formal Vice, Iniquity, I moralise two meanings in one word.’ (III.iii.82–83) This play is weighted with rigid historical context, but also challenges the notion of providentialism through Richard’s determination to ‘prove a villain.’ There is also a challenge in Pacino’s Looking for Richard for the modern audience, and the responder can see the creative reshaping of Shakespeare’s challenge. Set in New York in the mid 1990’s, Pacino attempts to ‘communicate how [he] feel[s] about Shakespeare to others.’ This is achieved through a one hundred and twelve minute carefully orchestrated pastiche of Pacino’s process of discourse in evaluating the work and directing a consensus. Pacino values the process of discussing, learning and evaluating the work and coming to a consensus. Critic James Bowman has accused Pacino of making a documentary ‘based on the by-now old-fashioned notion that Shakespeare can be made ‘relevant’ to the happening youth of the nineties… but I doubt the efficiency of slicing and dicing Shakespeare and serving him up in quick cuts to pander to a bunch of no-mind slackers.’ His reshaped intent of reaching a modern audience results in heavy social and cultural influences that have been established through interviews with people, called vox pops, which revealed the lack of interest in Shakespeare’s works. However, an African American man’s responses are used strategically throughout the documentary, and he offers an ideology that Shakespeare’s plays are about morality, and convey significant values everyone should study. Shakespeare ‘did more than help us; He instructed us.’ The use of the hand-held camera reinforces Pacino’s purpose to bring Shakespeare to the general public, and the level of importance of the reaction is represented by the close ups and titled camera angles on their faces as they respond to Pacino and Kimble’s questions. Pacino’s attempt to reshape King Richard III to reach the modern audience sees retain some aspects - the film is contextually valuable as its structure sequentially follows the narrative of King Richard III, establishing Shakespeare’s nuances of plot through non-Diegetic voice-overs by Pacino. This continually brings the audience back to the original text and its inherent value. The connections of both texts reach beyond their literal...
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