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Both William Shakespeares Richard III and Al Pacinos Looking for Richard
explore the timeless and closely linked themes of power and THEME.
Shakespeares Elizabethan context is far different from that of the humanist and
secular context of Pacino. Throughout Richard III Shakespeare highlights the
importance of the church and divine right in Richardss pursuit of and fall from
This religious explanation is not relevant for the modern context of Pacino and
hence Pacino reframes the key themes to fit his context, downplaying the role of
the church whilst still exploring Richardss pursuit of power through his duality.
Through his portrayal of Richard, Shakespeare creates a character meant to be
hated by his audience who were familiar with the Tudor myth. Shakespeare
portrays a Richard that is exaggeratedly villainous in nature, animalistic and
heavily deformed conveying Richards death as an act of divine retribution.
Pacino similarly, conveys Richards as a villainous and Machiavellian character
however downplays the effects of Richards deformities, and conveys Richardss
loss of power as due to the effects of his conscience and his short-sighted
alienation or betrayal of his supporters.
These changes to the character of Richard allow Pacinos modern audience to
understand the ambitions and duality of Richard whilst still gaining the intended
insight from the original Shakespearian text.

Paragraph One (POWER):

The desire for power serves as the central motivation for Richard, and both texts
explore this as a prominent theme.
Shakespeare utilises the characterisation of Richards through his soliloquies I am
determined to play a villain to convey his true motives and character to his
audience in order for them to clearly recognise his deception in his path to the
The motif and animal imagery as Richard as the boar, his heraldic symbol
represents not only power but also Richards animalistic way in order to gain
power, like a boar he destroys everything in his way to achieve his ambition.
Hence Shakespeare positions his audience to see Richard as the antagonist and
his path to the throne as an evil and cruel usurpation.
Pacino recreates these techniques within his modern context reframing Richard
not as an evil usurper, but as a cunning politician.
Pacino expresses Richardss characterisation through a parallel to the democratic
ideals and current political realities of his context to draw parallels with Richards
situation through his voiceover the fact is people are tired of the way its been
and want a change conveying power secularly as a human construct.
Pacino utilises costuming to convey Richards pursuit of power with Pacinos
Richard dressed all in black and holding a riding crop, modern symbols of power.
Pacino utilises his portrayal of Richard to create a character understood by his
modern audience who understand his situation framed as political discontent thus
conceptualising Richard as a protagonist who is relatable to Pacinos 20 th century
Through his portrayal and exaggeration of Richards evils Shakespeare positions
his audience to detest the villainous king whilst Pacino reshapes his character of

Richard in order to portray his as an intelligent and cunning politician admired by

his 20th century audience.
Paragraph Two A (HUMAN NATURE):

Both composers explore further than the normal confines of a play, examining
what it truly means to be human.
Shakespeare explores the notion that one can become so completely corrupted
by power and evil in nature that they cease to be human through his exploration
of Richards character.
Shakespeare exaggerates Richards deformities employing his soliloquies to
convey that he is cheated of feature... deformed, unfinished thus suggesting that
Richard sees himself as something less than human and hence Shakespeare
utilises accumulation to portray that Richard finds it acceptable that he is subtle,
false and treacherous. Hence Shakespeare employs Richards deformed state to
imply that god has left him unfinished, known by the Elizabethan audience to
symbolise him as evil and villainy.
Richard is accused throughout the play as being a less than human through
Shakespeares recurring animal imagery employed to characterise Richards most
foul and evil nature, Richard is referred to as a toad and the bloody dog, which
along with Richards association as the boar, raises the question within
Shakespeares audience of whether Richard is so evil in both body and mind that
he is no longer truly human.
Pacinos treatment of human nature is far less certain in its exploration and
depiction of Richard and creates a more ambiguous interpretation of what it truly
means to be human.
Pacino depicts Richard as psychologically not physically flawed, conveying this
through an interview with Kimball who states Shakespeare has exaggerated his
deformity, in order to body forth.... metaphorically, the corruption of his mind.
Pacino does agree with the Shakespearian insight that Richards evil nature leads
to the loss of his humanity; however he positions his readers to feel sympathy
towards Richard, surrounding his dehumanisation. This is portrayed through the
mise en scene of Pacino walking around the globe theatre alone with the
voiceover of Kimball who conveys he does not have his own humanity... he has
let the pursuit of power totally corrupt him.
Pacino creates sympathy within the responder towards Richards who has become
a victim to human nature and his own conscience, and is not portrayed as evil but
isolated, alone and confused.
Hence both composers explore the effect of overweening ambition on our
humanity positioning their readers to feel hatred or sympathy towards Richard
who is a victim of his own human nature.

Paragraph 2 B (DUALITY):

Both composers convey Richards ability to gain power through his deception and
manipulation, expressed as Richards duality, his ability to appear as having one
motive but in reality having another.
Shakespeare employs the double entendre of Richards promise your
imprisonment shall not be long to Clarence, to show how easily Richard deceives
those around him. Pacino reshapes these techniques to convey the same insights.
Pacino utilises an interview with actor Kevin Klein in order to convey how Richard
engages the audience in his plots Klein conveys to Pacino that Richard is always
saying to the audience this is what Ill do, then he does it and comes back to say

wasnt that good? Richard involves the audience as co-conspirators, and thus
highlights his duality through his now obvious deception of those around him.
Both texts explore the scene in which Richard woos Lady Anne in order to show
the extent of his duality. Shakespeare employs stichomythia to show Richards
ability to manipulate those surrounding him whilst hiding his true motives. Richard
constantly confuses Anne by redirecting her thoughts toward his purpose He is in
heaven (Anne), Let him thank me that holp to send him thither; for he was fitter
for that place on earth (Richard). Through Richards wooing of the poor and
helpless Anne, Shakespeare portrays Richards manipulation as ruthless and
further conveys Richard as an evil and power hungry character when the audience
is revealed Richards true intentions through his aside, Ill have her but I will not
keep her long.
Pacino emphasises Shakespeares use of stichomythia during this scene to convey
Richards calculated manipulation through the use of visual stichomythia. Cuts in
Pacinos corresponding scene move rapidly through a variety of shots, showing
Anne crying, Richard watching Anne from the shadows planning his next
movements, and Pacino and his fellow actors discussing Richards ability to
manipulate Anne.
Pacino also utilises the chiaroscuro lighting of the scene to depict Richard as a
powerful and enigmatic figure who is easily able to find and target the
weaknesses of Anne. In doing this Pacino recreates Richard where his sexual
power replaces his wit.
This character is more accessible by the modern audience, who are then able to
see Richardss duality as an intelligent form of manipulation in his pursuit of
power not as an evil plot in his divine usurpation. Pacinos recreation of the theme
of Richardss duality allows his audience to achieve a greater understanding
through his portrayal of Richard in a more modern light.

Paragraph Three (POWER):

The contextual change from highly religious to secular is culminated in each

composers portrayal of the final scenes in which Richard sees the ghosts of all
those he has ruthlessly murdered, exploring the theme of power.
Shakespeare portrays Richard as a royal usurper, set out to upset the divine
order and utilises the plot device of the ghosts in Act 5 Scene 3 to convey to his
audience, who are already familiar with the Tudor myth, that Richard must die in
order for peace to be restored, virtuous and holy, be thou conqueror .
Richards loss of power due to divine right and ghostly intervention is not relevant
for a humanist society; hence Pacino portrays Richard as mentally unstable and
ridden with guilt due to his evil nature. Hence Pacino conveys Richard's loss of
power as due to his conscience, through the plot device of his existential crisis.
The ghosts from Richard the Third are reframed into Richards dream using visual
stichomythia. Shots of Clarence, the young princes, and the nobles Richard has
murdered, along with Queen Elizabeth wrought with anguish are contrasted with
shots of Richards own death both in rehearsal and performance. Kimballs
voiceover is used to state he is alienated from his own self conveying the idea
that It was Richards conscience that caused his downfall.
Hence Pacino reshapes Shakespeares original text in order to provide insight
upon the effects of ones insatiable lust for power on their conscience and human


Both Richard III and Looking for Richard are products of different times yet they
are connected through their parallel exploration of human nature and Richards
pursuit of power.
Pacino in his docudrama Looking for Richard reframes Shakespeares original
play Richard the third in order to bring the Tudor drama and its religious context,
to his twentieth century secular and humanist audience, whilst still delivering the
key ideas and insights to be gained from the Shakespearian original.
Through a study of the contexts and values of the texts, the responder gains
insight into the consequences of suppressing your humanity for the pursuit of