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The History Boys: A Play (2004)

by Alan Bennett

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8813024,943 (4.07)75
An unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form boys in pursuit of sex, sport and a place at university. A maverick English teacher at odds with the young and shrewd supply teacher. A headmaster obsessed with results; a history teacher who thinks he's a fool. In Alan Bennett's classic play, staff room rivalry and the anarchy of adolescence provoke insistent questions about history and how you teach it; about education and its purpose. The History Boys premiered at the National in May 2004.… (more)
  1. 00
    Lessons of the Masters by George Steiner (librorumamans)
    librorumamans: Lecture One in Steiner's book is particularly useful to read alongside Bennett's play; a connection that Bennett himself acknowledges in his introduction.
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» See also 75 mentions

English (29)  Italian (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
I can't recall what made me interested in this play a few years ago, nor can I explain exactly what I have gained from it now that I've read it...but there is definitely something touching and soul-trembling about this play. It connects with something beyond cognition and verbalization so that one encounters the play on two levels--one concerned with the reality which the play represents and the other concerned with the emotional current which gently prods reality forward--much as the boys encountered education on two levels through Hector and Irwin. This multiple focusing layers the play so that Hector's bike rides and Irwin and Dakin's interactions are seen as more than simply teacher indiscretions, but also the manifestation of something more elusive that must be pondered. My only qualms with the work are the lack of stage directions and the minimal character development in light of the initial presentation. It's not uncommon to focus a work on a select number of characters and to only outline the rest, but for a play that gives off the initial sense of the characters being this progressing whole, much of the whole is ignored throughout. ( )
  AngelReadsThings | Jun 5, 2024 |
Una storia semplice e certo non nuova, ma messa in scena in maniera intelligente, spassosa e amara insieme, con dialoghi sempre brillanti e una struttura temporale intelligente. ( )
  d.v. | May 16, 2023 |
Probably better seen as plays are meant to be. Interesting arguments as to what equals a good education. The homosexual references added nothing to the plot. Even though the writer's gay, if the words don't move/enhance the plot, why include it?

Favorite Quote: "How do I define history? It's just one fucking thing after another." ( )
  crabbyabbe | Feb 24, 2022 |
This short play is about a group of boys applying to university and the three teachers who are trying to help them. ( )
  Pferdina | Apr 11, 2021 |
I picked this up after seeing an excerpt from the play in the recent National Theatre 50th Anniversary, and before watching the DVD version of the play in its entirety. ( )
  resoundingjoy | Jan 1, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alan Bennettprimary authorall editionscalculated
Griffiths, RichardReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hytner, NicholasIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Merrison, CliveReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Irwin is in a wheelchair, in his forties, addressing three or four unidentified MPs.
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An unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form boys in pursuit of sex, sport and a place at university. A maverick English teacher at odds with the young and shrewd supply teacher. A headmaster obsessed with results; a history teacher who thinks he's a fool. In Alan Bennett's classic play, staff room rivalry and the anarchy of adolescence provoke insistent questions about history and how you teach it; about education and its purpose. The History Boys premiered at the National in May 2004.

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The play opens in Cutlers' Grammar School, Sheffield, a fictional boys' grammar school in the north of England. Set in the early 1980s, the play follows a group of history pupils preparing for the Oxford and Cambridge entrance examinations under the guidance of three teachers (Hector, Irwin, and Lintott) with contrasting styles.
Hector, an eccentric teacher, delights in knowledge for its own sake but his ambitious headmaster wants the school to move up the academic league table and hires Irwin, a supply teacher, to introduce a rather more cynical and ruthless style of teaching. Hector is discovered sexually fondling a boy and later Irwin's latent homosexual inclinations emerge.
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