King Richard Iii and Looking for Richard

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The texts King Richard III and Looking for Richard both accept the centrality of power and the yearning for it, as a central plot driver and an assumed part of the human condition. However, each presents a different perspective as to the nature of power; its origins and morality.

Discuss this statement with close, detailed reference to both texts set for study.

Power is defined as the possession of control or command over people and events. In Shakespeare’s play ‘King Richard III’, the centrality of power is communicated through characters and their pursuit for power while in ‘Looking for Richard’, Al Pacino’s docudrama exploring Richard as a character, his struggle for power is portrayed as well as Pacino’s struggle as he produces the film. Both texts accept the centrality of power by using it as a significant plot driver and assumed part of the human condition. The two texts, however, present different concepts about the nature of power through the techniques used for different audiences, influenced by the contexts in which the texts are composed.

In Shakespeare's play, it is easily seen that power is central as the whole situation that the characters find themselves in is due to a struggle for power, a fight for the throne. The civil war between the houses of York and Lancasters has been won ‘by this son of York’, King Edward, Richard’s brother. In the opening soliloquy Richard says ‘…since I cannot prove a lover/ To entertain these fair well-spoken days, / I am determined to prove a villain’. It is not only Richard who thirsts for power, but also Buckingham and the Woodvilles. Buckingham chooses to politically align himself with Richard for his gain, apparent when he asks Richard for the promised earldom of Hereford. He ignores Margaret’s warnings about Richard and continues to support him. He also enjoys acting almost as much as Richard, seen in Act 3 scene 5 when he tells Richard he can ‘counterfeit the deep tragedian’, and ‘I will play the orator’ about the acting skills he’ll utilise to convince the citizens about Richard becoming king. He even takes on the role of director when he makes Richard seen pious by suggesting that he pose with a prayer book between two churchmen. The Woodvilles, Queen Elizabeth and her family are also interested in power. Elizabeth defending her family and supporters in Act 1 scene 3 by saying ‘you envy my advancement and my friends’.’ And the way in which her brother and sons linger around the castle highlight the Woodville’s interest in power and wealth. Such techniques highlight the significance of attaining power to the main characters in the play.

In the film, Richard as a character is explored by Al Pacino. Richard’s struggle for power is reinforced by Pacino’s struggle for control as he directs the film. Richard’s desire for power is made clear at the beginning when Pacino states ‘he wants the crown… it’s that simple’. Early in the film Pacino says that ‘the role and the actor will merge, the actor will find the role’, highlighting the fact that as Pacino understands more about Richard, there is a blur between Pacino and Richard. The use of Pacino’s constant presence in the mise-en-scene to the point where the audience is unsure whether they are seeing Richard or Pacino emphasise the actor and role merging. At the end of the film, Pacino is sick, and as he coughs he asks ‘am I dying?’ but also asks the question as Richard, who will soon die in the play. The use of placing Pacino in the foreground of the scene and Kimball at his side or behind him also highlight Pacino’s desire for power in the production of the film. Kimball offers suggestions as to what they should do, but Pacino always overrules and controls the situation.

Especially in the scene titles ‘the council room’, the cinematic techniques such as the high angle camera shots that seem to circle around the large table, the use of dark backgrounds and shadows, and the eerie non-diegetic sound reinforce the...
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