Composers throughout various zeitgeists are linked by different representations of universal human concerns, and their texts simultaneously embody certain values and agendas individual to themselves. An exploration of Shakespeare’s King Richard III (1592) and Al Pacino’s Looking for Richard (1996) allows for a greater understanding of the composer’s respective contexts, along with their intended agendas, through the lens of their own societal values and concerns. The manipulation of Richard III’s persona, whether by authorial adaptation of historical sources related to his character, or through the differing views of Richards motives, are universal concepts, that when studied in relation to the differing time periods, accentuates the context and our understanding of recurrent aspects of the human experience.
Biblical Figures and Ideals in William Shakespeare's Richard II
William Shakespeare's Richard II tells the story of one monarch's fall from the throne and the ascension of another, Henry Bullingbrook, later to become Henry IV. There is no battle fought between the factions, nor does the process take long. The play is not action-packed, nor does it keep readers in any form of suspense, but rather is comprised of a series of quietly dignified ruminations on the nature of majesty. Thus, the drama lies not in the historical facts, but in the effects of the situation on the major characters and the parallels drawn by Shakespeare to other tales. The outrage felt by Richard and his fellow royalists is not due from a modern sense of personal loss, but from the much more important sense of loss of order, which came most predominately from the strictly Catholic sensibilities of the time.
To explore connections between texts is to heighten understanding of humanity’s progressing values and the underlying relevant themes that continue to engage societies regardless of context. William Shakespeare’s King Richard III (1592) (RIII) and Al Pacino’s docudrama Looking for Richard (1996) (LFR) demonstrate how opinion is created through comparative study, both explore the struggle for power within differing contexts to determine the duplicity of humanity. Ultimately, despite the divergent eras of composition and textual form, these connections expose the relevant social commentaries of their composers, highlighting innately human values, which remain constant.
Gifted with the darkest attributes intertwined in his imperfect characteristics, Shakespeare’s Richard III displays his anti-hero traits afflicted with thorns of villains: “Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous / By drunken prophecies, libels, and dreams” (I.i.32-33). Richard possesses the idealism and ambition of a heroic figure that is destined to great achievements and power; however, as one who believes that “the end justifies the means”, Richard rejects moral value and tradition as he is willing to do anything to accomplish his goal to the crown. The society, even his family and closest friends, repudiate him as a deformed outcast. Nevertheless, he cheers for himself as the champion and irredeemable villain by turning entirely to revenge of taking self-served power. By distinguishing virtue ethics to take revenge on the human society that alienates him and centering his life on self-advancement towards kingship, Richard is the literary archetype of an anti-hero.
Richard, the main character of the Shakespeare’s play, Richard III is portrayed as socially destructive and politically over-ambitious. His destructive potential is depicted by the way he relates with the other protagonists in the play and also by what he confesses as his intentions.
It is not terribly odd to see directors adapt Shakespearian plays to a different era. In fact, contemporary elements in films like Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet and the most recent Much Ado About Nothing by Joss Whedon have definitely bring valuable new readings to the text. Embracing this trend, Richard III (1995) by Richard Loncraine shifts its background to 1930s Britain. Starring Ian McKellen as Richard, the movie makes an undeniable connection to Nazi Germany; very details include costume design, set and prop, and cinematography choices all closely relate Richard to Hitler, an equivalent villain from modern history. The choice of blending Hitler into Richard puts viewers now into the shoes of audience from Shakespeare’s time to better understand Richard’s evil; although Richard III is quite ancient, Hitler is still a new scar.
Shakespeare, William. Richard III. The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1997)
Defective Rulers in Henry IV and Richard II
It has been shown again and again throughout history and literature that if there is a perfect human he is not also the perfect ruler. Those traits which we hold as good, such as the following of some sort of moral code, interfere with the necessity of detachment in a ruler. In both Henry IV and Richard II, Shakespeare explores what properties must be present in a good ruler. Those who are imperfect morally, who take into account only self-interest and not honor or what is appropriate, rise to rule, and stay in power.
Richard II - The Rape of a Nation
By bowing down to the needs of his subjects, a king allows others to dictate his actions and hence compromises the essence of his power. Paradoxically, failing to heed the desires of his subjects transforms a king into a self-indulgent tyrant and propels his kingdom towards ruin and decay. Can a sovereign rule his subjects without considering their general welfare? If a king rules unconscionably, do his subjects have the right to replace him?
King Richard III was the last Plantagenet king and is doubtlessly one of the most controversial British rulers of the Middle Ages. His reign marked the end of the Wars of the Roses between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians and the beginning of a new myth based not only on his physical appearance but also on this moral. He is depicted as a deformed human being; he is believed to have had a hunchback and his physical description is one of a monster, of a deformed creature. However, this allegation most likely lies on the grounds that he has been an inhumanly cruel and wicked person; a ruthless tyrant who is thought to have murdered and bastardised his two young nephews in the Tower of London, one of which had been crowned to the throne. In order to provide evidence to the accusations levelled at Richard III, archaeologists have conducted numerous excavations to find out whether this portrait of Richard III was real or a mere metaphor to describe his actions. It is just conceivably that this physical representation is based on the Tudor Myth -a myth that initially started by Tudor’s historians such as Polydore Vergir and Sir Thomas More, and perpetuated by Shakespreare’s play Richard III, in which he is also described as an abnormal King.