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King Richard Iii Essay

1298 words - 6 pages

New ideas are illuminated when a canon text is re shaped for a contemporary audience. Do you agree?
In an attempt to make canon texts from historical contexts more accessible and understandable to a contemporary audience it is common for composers to recontextualise older texts. In doing so it also allows for new ideas to become illuminated due to greater knowledge and exploration of the texts from a modern perspective. If we look to both King Richard III, a 1591 play by William Shakespeare and Looking for Richard, a 1996 docu-drama by Al Pacino we see this perfect example of a contemporary director attempting to make a 16th century play more accessible to a 20th century audience. The ...view middle of the document...

” The use of rhetorical question allows the audience to draw on their own religious beliefs, most of which would have agreed with the question. What Pacino is attempting to convey in his film however is the idea that religious truth today is a dying value and if a contemporary audience were posed with that same question, most, if not all would disagree.
We are introduced right from the beginning of Al Pacino’sfilm to the idea that religion is a value of diminished importance in modern day society. Expressed through voice over we hear the opening lines from one of Shakespeare’s earlier plays The Tempest that states “this insubstantial pageant faded” which is, right from the beginning alluding the audience, through the use of metaphor, to the idea that Shakespeare’s context is finished. Contemporary society is majorly secular and less concerned with ideas of religion. It is for this reason that Pacino decides to focus less on the religious values expressed throughout Shakespeare’s play and present his audience with ideas within the text that would still interest them today.
Another key idea raised in both texts is the theme of power and corruption. The play is set during a time of what we now know as the War of the Roses. Audiences in the 16th century would have had an understanding of the family clash between the Lancasters and the Yorks however Pacino decided his ‘average American’ contemporary audience would most likely not. For this reason Pacino presents act one scene one as a series of rapid cuts between rehearsal scenes, pre production scenes and narrative interruptions. This allows for the scene to be explained to the audience as it progresses. For example we are presented at one stage with rapid cuts between close ups of etchings displaying each of the families and characters. This is accompanied by Pacino’s voiceover as he clearly explains the happenings of the War of the Roses. “And my brother Clarence…is not the king, and me, I’m not the king. I wanna be the king. It’s that simple.” Through the use of colloquial language it is made very clear to the contemporary audience what is going on, something that would not have happened during an enactment of Shakespeare’s play during the Elizabethan era. This extra explanation allows for Pacino to elaborate on ideas expressed by Shakespeare as well as adding his own input. He touches on things such as the humanist debate and the idea that the pursuit of power is a basic part of the human condition, which was not widely accepted by Shakespeare’s audiences.
The War of the Roses is an example of external corruption and conflict within the play however Pacino’s film raises a new idea of internal corruption. In an...

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