How do the values presented depicts the change or stagnation of values over time
The respective purpose of each composer and the values they present are reflective of contextual attitudes. This resonates with Pacino’s purpose in recontextualising the ideas presented by Shakespeare to portray modern values, influenced by political, cultural and historical factors: “The text is only a means of expressing what’s behind the text.” Such ideas common to both texts are the role of women, the strength of conscience and the place of manipulation. It is through a study of these texts together that one may distinguish the degree to which the texts converge on inherent matters and diverge on contextual matters.
The role of women portrayed in these two texts are similar, transcending the distinct historical, cultural and social contexts. In Shakespeare’s Richard the Third, fostered by a society denoted by patriarchy, women are displayed as devoted to yet powerless over their male counterparts, and victims of their actions. The intense devotion of women towards their husbands is exemplified through Anne’s religious lamentations towards her husband after being killed by Richard:
‘Be it lawful that I invocate thy ghost
To hear the lamentations of poor Anne’
Through this faithfulness which transcends death, the role of women is conveyed as to remain eternally devoted to their husbands. The victimisation of women is evident through anaphora and epistrophe as Margaret proclaims:
‘I had an Edward, till a Richard killed him; I had a husband, till a Richard killed him.’
The repetition of the clause emphasises the severity of Richard’s crimes, and Margaret’s loss as a result of this. Thus, a lack of power of women in Elizabethan society is portrayed through their loss as a result of men, and their absolute devotion to their husbands,
Similarly, in Looking for Richard, Pacino depicts women as powerless over their male counterparts, and objectified by men for their personal gain. The powerlessness of women is achieved through Richard’s pursuit of Anne. A scene of slowed film and non-diegetic music, along with consecutive close-ups of Richard’s contorted face are juxtaposed with long shots of a small and vulnerable Anne. This is accompanied with inharmonious operatic music coupled with a voice over of selected quotes such as ‘I’ll have her, but I will not keep her long.’ This scene portrays Anne as a victim of Richard’s villainy, conveying women as powerless over males, hence illustrating contextual values of the time. Furthermore, Pacino’s selections of a ‘young and attractive’ actress, objectifies women, placing their supposed usefulness in their attractiveness, emphasising contextual values of women as property to be utilised. Hence, a study of these two texts reveals minimal change in values of the role of women in society, despite the significantly varying contexts.
While both texts acknowledge the strength of conscience, there are inherent differences between the importance and nature of conscience conveyed in these texts. A dissimilarity is evident in the source of conscience; the Elizabethan context alleges a religious importance of consciences, whilst the American context alleges a secular moral responsibility. Shaped by a protestant pre-occupation with morality and conscience, Shakespeare’s Richard the Third depicts Richard as an antithesis of the religious values, and this is reflected in his rejection of his conscience.
‘For conscience is a word that cowards use’
He then continues, exclaiming
‘If not to heaven then hand in hand to hell’
Furthermore, conscience is explored through the discourse of second murderer when contemplating the killing of Clarence. The second murderer represents societal values when asked why he is ‘afraid of’ committing the murderer, he states:
‘to be damned for killing him, from the which
No warrant can defend me.’
This embodies the Christian belief of salvation, that through not sinning, heaven can be reached, and thus conscience is displayed as sourced from religious values in Elizabeth society
Pacino expresses the contemporary value of conscience, disconnecting conscience from religion to provide a secular and moral notion of conscience, yet maintaining a common acknowledgement of the strength of conscience. This disconnecting of consciousness from religion is evident through Pacino’s decision to not include the second murderer’s dialogue in which he reflects upon the religious consequences. Intertwined and juxtaposed with the King’s attempts to unite the feuding families, the murderer scene depicts the consequences of rejecting one’s conscience. The moral responsibility to uphold one’s consciousness as dictated by Clarence, is exemplified through the lighting on Clarence’s face and the halting of the ominous music as Clarence proclaims ‘relent and save your souls’. This is directly contrasted to a scene depicting the first murderer rejecting his conscience, portrayed through the darkness on his face and non-diegetic ominous music. Therefore, the action of ignoring one’s conscience is conveyed as perilous, with negative implications for the individual. Thus, a timeless recognition of the strength of human conscience is common to both texts, though differing in their connection to religious consequences.
Both texts depict the timeless value of evilness and treachery, reflecting on the place these values have in their respective society. In Shakespeare’s King Richard III, Richard in depicted as inherently evil, and is greatly despised because of it, reflecting the contemptuous perceptions towards evil in Elizabethan society. Richard’s wickedness is made apparent through his rejection of morality in his unassailable attempt to obtain power, as he proclaims:
‘Clarence still breathes, Edward still lives and reigns;
When they are gone, then I must count my gains’
Shakespeare reflects Richard’s evil in his physical appearance. He is dehumanised through animalistic and diabolical imagery: ‘hell-bound…bunch-backed toad’, conveying societal views towards Richard’s treachery. Furthermore, Margaret exclaims that
‘Sin, death, and hell have set their marks on him’, indicative of the views of an Elizabeth audience
While Pacino’s Looking for Richard also portrays Richard as evil, this villainy is conveyed as accepted by and relatable to a modern American audience. This is evident when Pacino refers to himself as Richard during a table reading rehearsal: “I want to be king, is it that simple.” Thus, Pacino enacts a doppelganger effect, allowing Richard’s actions to be portrayed as relatable through the actor of Pacino. Furthermore, Pacino takes the focus off the immorality of Richard’s actions, placing a strong emphasis on the masterful execution of his duplicity and thus conveys the societal importance placed on these values. This is achieved through the quick cutting and close- up shots of Richard as he attempts to influence young Anne, combined with disorienting music and dim, shadowy lighting, enhancing the mastery of his actions. These values are further portrayed as beneficial in contemporary society, through the voice over comparison to modern politics ‘like politicians, complete with lies and innuendo.’ Thus, Pacino expresses the place of these values in modern society, through portraying the villainy and deceptiveness of Richard as not only relatable, but beneficial in modern society. Contrastingly, Shakespeare’s King Richard III depicts unsympathetic and despising views towards Richard’s immorality, reflective of the perceptions of Elizabethan society.