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Through a Marker’s Eyes: An Exemplar King Richard III x Looking for Richard Essay

Come along as Katriel dissects Riya's exemplar essay through a HSC marker’s eyes

English TeamKatriel Tan and Marko Beocanin

Module A is a battle you can win.

I know it can be really difficult to know what the markers want when trying to write an incredible King Richard x Looking for Richard essay. But look no further!

Welcome to an exemplar King Richard x Looking for Richard essay, by our very own wonderful Project English tutor Riya! Come along with me as I dissect her exemplar essay through a HSC marker’s eyes, showing you what markers are looking for and how to access those high marks in Module A.

The Art of the Mod A Introduction

Within HSC English Advanced, introductions play a key role in distinguishing essays between the different modules. Each module has a unique and specific focus, and it is extremely crucial to be showing this throughout your intro. And you guessed it, “Textual Conversations” is really the aim of the game with a Module A essay. You need to be honing in on it consistently - explicitly showing the marker that you understand there is a significant relationship between the two texts. By showing resonances, dissonances and a holistic thesis that binds the two texts over differing contextual landscapes, Riya clearly demonstrates the dialogue between them and the value of studying them side-by-side. Take a look!

To state that later texts in textual conversations lack originality and power is to undermine the influence of the original, for, it requires a literary masterpiece to yield the potential to be reshaped into a new text. Its resonance and value are celebrated in its contemporary appropriation, as no text is truly original. This notion is exemplified by the textual conversation between Shakespeare’s play King Richard III and Pacino’s docudrama Looking for Richard that aims to achieve his proclaimed purpose to ‘make Shakespeare accessible to … the people in the streets’ and privilege the roles of actors as the ultimate holders of truth. In contrast, Shakespeare intends to assert a theological worldview in which truth is ordained by God. Both texts explore vulnerability as a universal construct to human nature and the complexity of gender dynamics, as the later text seems to reveal a confronting reality, that, contrary to popular assumption, the passage of time is not synonymous with greater gender equality. Ultimately, it is the power and originality of Shakespearean literature and the texts that emerge from it, which facilitates such profound reflection on the human condition. When Pacino’s postmodern-Hollywood society is placed alongside Shakespeare’s Christian universe, the social progress required to achieve a proclaimed state of ‘egalitarianism’ is made evident.

Her essay begins with what I like to call “the fancy Module A appetiser” - this is something that comes with great practice in Module A and a very strong understanding of what the module is really about. Once you have exposed yourself to many Mod A questions, creating general and universal statements that capture the true essence of the essay question and the module comes really easy and quick. Riya immediately shows the marker an excellent understanding of how texts influence each other across time and space - we love this in Module A. She then moves on to clearly state the nature of the textual conversation, interweaving concepts and themes throughout. The context of both texts is made extremely clear, and the influence of the original text on the contemporary text is proven to be necessary and poignant. A big tick in the marker’s eyes!

The Two-Fold Body Structure

In Module A, there are a few essay structures you can adopt. The main ones being what I call the ‘four shorter paired paragraphs’ structure and the ‘two conceptual big boy paragraphs’ structure. If you want to see how the first works I recommend checking out this article for an exemplar, but for this essay Riya implements the conceptual structure. It’s important to see that there are many different ways to present a textual conversation essay - and any way as long as it’s done properly can work! Riya does an incredible job applying the two-fold structure - utilising the benefits of the structure to her advantage. This structure allows for a clearer representation of the ‘textual conversation’ and presents the texts as inherently intertwined for the marker!

Paragraph 1 - Human Nature

The vulnerability of human nature when faced with the choice to conform to society or preserve individuality invokes a meaningful conversation between Shakespeare’s Christian universe and Pacino’s secular society. King Richard III asserts providentialism in the opening of the play, “Cheated of feature…Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time” metaphorically conveying the influence of a theological worldview in which Richard’s physical deformity is a manifestation of his evil. Meanwhile, Pacino’s docu-drama employs intertextuality from one of Shakespeare’s well known plays – ‘The Tempest’, to benefit from his 20th century society’s awareness of the more famous lines from his canon. The serene music and voice over in  “these our actors, as I foretold you…were spirits… melted into thin air” emphasises the subversion of providentialism and rather privileges the assertion of free will in a society in which life is perceived to be transient, ‘our little life is rounded with a sleep’. Though Shakespeare does flirt with the notion of free will as Richard is ‘determined to prove a villain’,  his ambitions are within the contextual boundaries that clearly establish divine justice as the ultimate conclusion to any exertion of free will. As evident in the restoration of power to its rightful owner, Richmond, as “peace lives again…God say amen”, alludes to chaos as an implication of disobedience to society’s rigid moral compass, when in pursuit of free will. Contrastingly, Pacino deliberately lengthens Richard’s death scene in order to gain sympathy from an audience that is rather accepting of individual choices as ironically highlighted in “I love the silence”. This “silence” is perceived as a consequence of moral disintegration, emphasising the universal construct of vulnerability, and inviting audiences to appreciate individuality in a world where conformity is the preferred norm. Ultimately, the power and originality of textual conversations is made evident through its reflection of what it means to be human – and, an individual, while adhering to society’s dominant moral codes.

Here, Riya moves between different pieces of evidence within the two different texts fluidly, building upon her main idea in the topic sentence. By examining Shakespeare through the lens of Pacino, she makes it hard for the markers not to pay her the marks. Every claim is backed by textual evidence that is specific and well analysed. She applies every technique and links it back to the main concept of the paragraph. As you read her paragraph, each sentence builds upon each other and creates a richer and more multifaceted understanding of human nature and morality. This is what markers are looking for - is the student making any complex or interesting thematic arguments that reflect a more nuanced understanding of the textual conversation?

Paragraph 2 - Gender Dynamics

Like the structure suggests, the second paragraph illuminates a dialogue on a different concept to the first. Markers are looking for a different perspective that can reflect the importance of context on literature. In this paragraph, Riya dissects the intricate concept of gender dynamics and reflects upon how each text amplifies the concerns of the other.

The exploration of gender dynamics in King Richard III and Looking For Richard challenges a profound notion. As our modern society proclaims to have evolved in its representation of women in art, 20th century Hollywood reveals a confronting reality – that female actors and characters are still not presented by their intellectual and rightful standing. Aware of Richard’s machinations and prophesying his downfall, the female characters in Shakespeare’s play are afforded great advocacy. Through the utilisation of King Henry VI’s corpse as a mere stage prop in Act 1 Scene 2, “The corpse of King Henry is carried in”, Shakespeare is able to effectively convey that it is Lady Anne’s loss of societal power without a husband that makes her succumb to Richard’s wooing instead of emotional weakness; constituting her as a survivor rather than a victim in her patriarchal society. Contrastingly, Pacino sexualises Lady Anne’s character; dressed in a low V-necked gown, Anne is represented as a vulnerable woman seeking male companionship rather than a strong character fighting for survival. Such female representation challenges the presumption that the flow of time correlates with greater gender equality, perhaps even proposing that modern audiences have fine-tuned the male gaze to view women as sexual creatures. This notion is further reinforced by greenroom scenes in the docu-drama, a close-up of actress Penelope Allen’s dishevelled face, emphasises her frustration by the lack of interest Pacino and his team display in understanding her character, Queen Elizabeth, “That’s the way you want me to behave, is that it?”. Meanwhile, Shakespeare affords great power to his female characters, as exemplified by the foreshadowing of Richard’s downfall by the hysterical Queen Margaret, “Live each of you the subjects to his hate, … and all of you to God’s”. Thus, emphasising that despite being a text composed within the confines of a patriarchal society, King Richard III subtly asserts the power of women in literature. Ultimately, challenging modern audiences with a profound questioning of their own society, which proclaims to be progressive in its treatment of women, but, when placed adjacent to Shakespearean literature, its flaws are clearly distinguishable.

From the very start, Riya draws attention to her application of the concept to our contemporary contextual landscape. By reflecting the universality of gender dynamics across contexts, Riya instantly sets up the markers to give her marks for identifying a keystone value which can provide both resonance and dissonance. Yet, the big ticket winner here for a marker is her interesting take on the concept - Riya presents an argument that subverts assumptions and expectations of our contemporary society, reflecting the original text as one more progressive than the newer. By using very detailed evidence, Riya strongly displays her arguments through the explicit characterisation of females in both texts. The use of specific Module A vocabulary such as “challenging, contrastingly, proposing, asserts” makes this paragraph stellar in the marker’s eyes.

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Putting All The Pieces Together

The conclusion is your final way to convince the marker that your essay is strong and cohesive (and that you were actually trying to say something)! You must reflect back on your thesis and join all your points together. Here, Riya restates the nature of the textual conversation, and makes conceptual statements surrounding human nature and gender dynamics that she has already proven in her body. By this point, markers know what your arguments are, and there is no time to be adding in any new points!

The power and originality of Shakespearean literature facilitates such textual conversations that illuminate the literary value of Pacino’s film. The docu-drama’s dynamic textual form appeals to a modern audience and motivates a profound reflection on the human condition. Moreover, vulnerability is asserted as a universal construct across all contexts rather than a weakness inherent to man-kind. While challenging audiences on their presumption that the passage of time is synonymous with social progress, in particular greater gender equality. Consequently, audiences are left with a reformed and rather evolved understanding of their world, encouraging them to take an active stance in the creation of their social narrative. Thus, emphasising that such insight can only be facilitated when two texts of distinct time periods are studied in tandem.

She ends her conclusion with another “fancy Module A appetiser”, but this time her focus is on the audience interpretation and what we can gain as readers of both texts in unison. This is an amazing way to show the marker that you also even understand the textual conversation between reader and writer! Overall, her essay begins strongly, explores her arguments with conviction and well-analysed evidence and ends with a nuanced and introspective reflection on the textual conversation between the two texts. It’s all smiles from the markers :)

So, there you go! Hopefully this helped you see what markers are looking for in an excellent King Richard III x Looking for Richard essay! Remember, by understanding what makes a marker happy, you are automatically setting yourself up for success! Keep writing and reviewing, you got this!