Unraveling King Richard III and Looking for Richard: A Complete Guide for HSC Module A

Are you struggling with HSC’s Module A? Need last-minute quotes and analysis to ace English Advanced? Don’t fret! Join us as we delve into this comprehensive guide, led by our state-ranker Melvern Kurniawan, who ranked 6th in NSW English Advanced in 2019!

Module A Rubric Analysis

Module A – Textual Conversations is all about unpacking the dialogue or discourse suspended between the two texts that you are studying. It’s also about pinpointing and then deconstructing what exactly the conversation the two texts are having with one another (that is, understanding what the composers are talking about conceptually/ thematically e.g., power, gender, egalitarianism, self-destruction etc.) such that you are able to construct an essay that is anchored by ideas. Yet, the rubric wants us to look a lot deeper than just unravelling the concepts which the two composers explore and instead encourages (or demands) us to then disentangle the relationship between the two texts in terms of their exploration of certain ideas as they are mediated by divergent contexts and communicated via distinct forms. With the rubric using words like resonances, dissonances, collision, alignments and mirroring, it doesn’t take a genius to understand that NESA wants us to critically analyse the similarities and differences that surface when Shakespeare’s original work – King Richard III, a play manufactured by the prevailing assumptions and ideals of the Elizabethan era – is being recrafted and reconstructed via Pacino’s postmodernist lens in his “docudrama type thing”, Looking For Richard.

Power and Machiavellianism 

Once again, think about the differences and similarities with regards to how the theme of ‘power’ is being represented within each text, and then account for the reasons as to why they may diverge or converge in their exploration of these ideas. For example, ‘power’ and ‘authority’ manifest as central issues within both texts, thereby forming a resonance within each text. Yet, the way in which ‘power’ manifests is undeniably distinct. WHY?  

King Richard III: Power and Political Turmoil

King Richard III is set after the political conflict and social turmoil of the War of Roses, a period shaped by uncertainty and volatility in terms of a ‘social safety net’ as well as who was exercising power over the throne. Scarred by turbulence, England’s social consciousness both within the narrative as well as externally, were in need of some semblance of stability to retain order back into their lives (“the imagery of the play is thick with memories of England’s bloodstained past rather than aspirations of a brighter future”). This also gave way to individuals like Richard, who, driven by an insatiable political ambition, unyielding desire and supreme intellect, to seize the throne and usurp the Divine Right of Kings in order to obtain royal prominence and thereby power. This undying thirst for political power embodied by Richard forms the backbone of the play’s narrative – every action that Richard fulfills, every word that he employs, is a calculated and intricately engineered plan to deceive those around him into fulfilling the role of a ‘pawn’ in his stage, so that he can claim the power of a King – “he is a hunched back villain ready to slaughter children in order to accelerate his path to the throne.”.  

Looking For Richard: Artistic and Cultural Power Reimagined

This idea surrounding power is similarly explored in Looking for Richard, however, Pacino’s pursuit of power is reimagined through the lens of artistic, intellectual and cultural power. Firstly, we need to understand that the fundamental purpose in Pacino creating this film is that he has a burning desire to unite and bridge the gap between a disconnected modern audience, with Shakespeare’s artistry (particularly through the play King Richard III). Pacino himself states in the film:  

“It’s always been a dream of mine to communicate how I feel about Shakespeare to other people.”  

This statement should form the basis of how you understand Pacino’s purpose and what type of power he is trying to achieve.  

Analyzing Power Dynamics

If we look at how this collides with Shakespeare’s representation of ‘power’ in his text, this discontinuity can be attributed towards the fact that Pacino is living in a post-modern world where society is more politically jaded – individuals had just emerged out of the destructive chaos of WWII, and so audiences are deterred away from any subject matter that has to do with politics. As such, Pacino frames this idea through a different vehicle, instead dissecting the ways in which he can harness power intellectually and artistically. This comes down to the fact that his sole objective is to imbue audiences with Shakespearean knowledge, and when he successfully does so, he can claim the ownership of, or right to, our understanding of his works – thereby cementing his authority over our perception of the literary canon.  

Redefining Cultural Recognition

Another form of power which Pacino is trying to pursue is cultural recognition/ cultural power. Traditionally, Shakespearean artistry was thought to be ‘owned’ by or in the possession of England and scholars. Pacino intends to destabilise this cultural norm and instead wants to exercise power over Shakespeare’s work while being an American actor – his role is considered to be the polar opposite of those who are thought to rightfully claim ownership over Shakespeare’s works. As a director, Pacino skilfully manipulates how we perceive the British academia as he presents them as being laughable caricatures that simply mirror our stereotypical understanding of them – they are wearing oversized suits, spectacles, and sit in front of a heap of books whilst offering nothing of worthiness in terms of deepening our understanding of Shakespeare’s legacy. In addition, to further dissemble the perceived power held by British culture over Shakespeare, Pacino consciously avoids even providing the names of these individuals he interviews, as he attempts to dissolve their supremacy and relocate it to himself – an American actor.  

Analysis of Modus Operandi

Think about the modus operandi (the way in which they work as individuals) of each character. HOW is it that they are able to achieve their power? Machiavellianism? Manipulation? Deception? Facade? Performance? 

What drives them? Hubris? Egoism?  

- Overall, both texts explore the theme of ‘power’ (according to their respective contexts, which evokes a dissonance in how this idea manifests within the texts) 

- Pacino reframes these issues concerning power in his film to comment on its enduring nature (despite a shift in context, these ideas remain prevalent)  

- Yet, the way in which Richard and Pacino obtain their power are the same – they employ Machiavellian politics and ideology to deceive others – underscoring how the pursuit of power is reliant on one’s ability to engage in performance and create a façade that tricks others  

- Ultimately, the two texts are engaging in a textual conversation/ discourse  

Example paragraph structure for POWER/ DECEPTION CONCEPT:   

Topic sentence (WHAT IS YOUR CONCEPT?) :  

Shakespeare and Pacino actively engage in a dialogue concerning how the individual is able to solidify a position of power by dexterously mediating through the fluctuations of his external environment via deception and manipulation.  

ELABORATE (contextual resonances and dissonances that will then form the framework for your analysis):   

Whilst both protagonists employ Machiavellian principles in their pursuit of power, the reshuffling of the construct of ‘power’ observed between both texts highlights the paradigmatic shift from Elizabethan England values, an era whose values were predominantly manufactured by providential metanarratives to the postmodern world, as Shakespeare frames Richard’s pursuit of authority via a political lens whilst Pacino’s endeavour for power is self-reflexively framed as an intellectual battle between himself and the audience. 

Hope this helped give you an insight into Mod A’s King Richard III/ Looking for Richard! Our full range of material is over 100 pages long co-authored by 6 state rankers. If you’d like to try out a lesson with us, visit our website: https://www.concepteducation.com.au/enquire or email admin@conceptenglish.com.au to enquire today!

P.S: Want some more? Check out our comprehensive state-ranking guide on Module B.

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