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The History Boys

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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 hist 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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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 hist 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.

30 review for The History Boys

  1. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    IRWIN: So, what do we think of The History Boys then? RUDGE: It's a classroom drama, sir. Set in Yorkshire during the early 80s. Features a clash between two different styles of teaching, embodied by the two contrasting teachers, Mr. Hector and Mr. Irwin, who... IRWIN: Yes, yes, yes, everyone will write that. I am results-focussed, Mr. Hector teaches you the true value of culture. Perfect if you want to get into Bristol. Ideal for Sheffield. Someone else? SCRIPPS: It's got witty and inventive dialo IRWIN: So, what do we think of The History Boys then? RUDGE: It's a classroom drama, sir. Set in Yorkshire during the early 80s. Features a clash between two different styles of teaching, embodied by the two contrasting teachers, Mr. Hector and Mr. Irwin, who... IRWIN: Yes, yes, yes, everyone will write that. I am results-focussed, Mr. Hector teaches you the true value of culture. Perfect if you want to get into Bristol. Ideal for Sheffield. Someone else? SCRIPPS: It's got witty and inventive dialogue, sir. IRWIN: Such as? You need a striking example, you know. DAKIN: Mr. Hector calls me "sad" at one point, sir. Mrs. Lintott corrects him, and says she prefers the word "cuntstruck". She points out that it's a compound adjective. The rest of this review is available elsewhere (the location cannot be given for Goodreads policy reasons)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cecily

    Bennett at his best: witty, erudite and controversial. This play is set in the 1980s in a boys’ grammar school (no fees to pay, but students have to pass exams to gain admission) where a new head is determined to get some of his brighter history pupils into prestigious Oxford and Cambridge colleges via additional lessons by three very different teachers: Hector, Irwin and also Mrs Lintott. Hector has been there for years; Irwin is young and brought in specially to help with Oxbridge exams and int Bennett at his best: witty, erudite and controversial. This play is set in the 1980s in a boys’ grammar school (no fees to pay, but students have to pass exams to gain admission) where a new head is determined to get some of his brighter history pupils into prestigious Oxford and Cambridge colleges via additional lessons by three very different teachers: Hector, Irwin and also Mrs Lintott. Hector has been there for years; Irwin is young and brought in specially to help with Oxbridge exams and interviews; Mrs Lintott is a somewhat motherly figure who wants to remind them that women exist. Inspirational Teaching The boys are taught to think quickly and originally, to play the system and to find new ways to be themselves. It conveys the power of inspirational and unconventional education to break social barriers, whilst fully acknowledging the continuing power of them. The importance of social mobility is a hot topic in the current political climate; the role of grammar schools to help achieve it is much more controversial. But are they being taught style over substance – or both? Hector is passionate about imparting knowledge to make them rounded individuals (regardless of targets or quantifiable results), while Irwin teaches techniques and finding a quirky angle to make them stand out. When Irwin asks the boys about the different teaching methods, he’s told “It’s just the knowledge... the pursuit of it for its own sake... not useful... like your [Irwin’s:] lessons”. Irwin tells them “truth is no more an issue in an examination than thirst at a wine-tasting or fashion at a striptease.” and “Flee the crowd... Be perverse... history nowadays is not a matter of conviction. It’s a performance. It’s entertainment.” Similar teachers are Felix in Atwood's retelling of The Tempest, titled Hag-Seed, which I reviewed HERE, and John Keating (Robin Williams) in Dead Poets Society Laughter, Tears, and... The Elephant in the Room Parts are laugh-out-loud funny (Rudge defining history as “just one fucking thing after another”), whilst other parts are sad or troubling. The most obviously the difficult question is a theme common in Bennett's work. Here, it is whether slight inappropriate sexual behaviour by a teacher to a nearly adult pupil is as evil as current paedo-paranoia would have us believe. The boys are resigned and slightly mocking of this eccentricity. When Hector has to stop giving them lifts on his bike, Dakin and Scripps joke, “No more genital massage as one speeds along leafy suburban roads... he dropped you at the corner, your honour still intact... Are we scarred for life, do you think? We must hope so. Perhaps it will turn me into Proust.” So what should the penalty be? Quote “The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.” Note that the play, especially the ending, is slightly different from the film.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joey Woolfardis

    [First read: 7th March, 2014 Second read: 22nd August, 2015] "The best moments in reading are when you come across something — a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things — that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out and taken yours." The BBC did a programme celebrating 50 years of the National Theatre in 2013 and The History Boys was one of them. It was a [First read: 7th March, 2014 Second read: 22nd August, 2015] "The best moments in reading are when you come across something — a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things — that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out and taken yours." The BBC did a programme celebrating 50 years of the National Theatre in 2013 and The History Boys was one of them. It was a short scene - the French scene - that was played out and I instantly fell in love. I had not had time for the Theatre before then: my last memory of anything theatre related was seeing something called The Eye of the Storm in Leeds whilst at Primary School and since then I'd hated it. It must have been really bad, but on the other hand, back then I didn't like classical music, poetry, Cricket or classic literature and so what did I know? It was love at first sight. I can distinctly remember it being The History Boys that did in fact lead me to my love of Theatre, though I'm sure all the others helped a lot, too. From there, it was only natural I read the book and see the film. The History Boys is set in Sheffield, North Yorkshire, in the 1980s at an all-boys boarding school and follows the education of eight sixth form boys who are either concerned with getting in to Oxbridge or getting their next shag, or both. One of the most important things to remember about this play is the time it is set in: the 1980s. This was the time when entrance exams and essays to Universities were compulsory and very different to how they are now, and also a time when homosexuality was definitely not as welcomed with open arms as it is today by the majority of society. There are eight pupils, three teachers and one headmaster, all of them vying for the attention of another person and each one has their own agenda, though they do not all realise what theirs is. It is a play divided in to two acts, though this is of no consequence. It's different reviewing plays to books as I usually talk about world-building, characterisation and the flow of the words, but these are relatively meaningless in a play. Characters speak, and that is it, so the dialogue is the most important thing: fortunately the dialogue is on-point. There are no wasted words and every thing anyone says has meaning. It is poignant and supremely heart-achingly sad, funny, wise and depraved at all angles. There is comic relief but there is also tragic relief, both mingled together as life always throws it so. Another point to remember is that Hector is not a paedophile, as I seem to recall many people thinking of him as so in other reviews I've read: the History Boys are in fact above legal age, though this does not give Hector the right to molest them. It is characteristically pathetic: a shoddy attempt at feeling that he cannot get right. He has other people's words to use instead of his own - poets and writers - yet his expressions of emotion are harmless and half-hearted. Much in the same way that Posner cannot examine his own feelings - about Dakin or anyone else - without falling in to the words of another person. I have not read an awful lot of plays, so perhaps my view of this is purely from a novelesque view point, though I cannot say for certain that I would not have been so captivated and ultimately moved by the play had I been a connoisseur of plays in the first place. I am a ruthless reviewer of books and I rarely give out five stars, so you'd forgive my impertinence as I say that obviously anything that completely knocks me sideways like The History Boys has isn't at least some way to being a good story. Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest | Shop | Etsy

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bettie☯

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007g95p Description: An unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form (or senior) boys in a British boys' school are, as such boys will be, in pursuit of sex, sport, and a place at a good university, generally in that order. In all their efforts, they are helped and hindered, enlightened and bemused, by a maverick English teacher who seeks to broaden their horizons in sometimes undefined ways, and a young history teacher who questions the methods, as well as the aim, o http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007g95p Description: An unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form (or senior) boys in a British boys' school are, as such boys will be, in pursuit of sex, sport, and a place at a good university, generally in that order. In all their efforts, they are helped and hindered, enlightened and bemused, by a maverick English teacher who seeks to broaden their horizons in sometimes undefined ways, and a young history teacher who questions the methods, as well as the aim, of their schooling. In The History Boys, Alan Bennett evokes the special period and place that the sixth form represents in an English boy's life. In doing so, he raises—with gentle wit and pitch-perfect command of character—not only universal questions about the nature of history and how it is taught but also questions about the purpose of education today. Adapted for radio by Richard Wortley from Nicholas Hytner's National Theatre production. More than three decades on from Forty Years On, Alan Bennett turns his attention once more to education, encompassing both the tussles of staffroom rivalry and the anarchy of adolescence. Now I need to re-watch the film... Hector ...... Richard Griffiths Irwin ...... Geoffrey Streatfeild Mrs Lintott ...... Frances de la Tour The Headmaster ...... Clive Merrison Crowther ...... Samuel Anderson Posner ...... Samuel Barnett Dakin ...... Dominic Cooper Timms ...... James Corden Akthar ...... Sacha Dhawan Lockwood ...... Andrew Knott Scripps ...... Jamie Parker Rudge ...... Russell Tovey Solo singer ...... Samuel Barnett Pianists ...... Jamie Parker and Tom Attwood

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Utterly useless play. The occasional "witty" line, but the whole thing felt very self-serving, self-congratulatory, and mechanical. And this pile of self-consciously Teddibly Intellectual Claptrap won the Tony for Best Play over Martin McDonagh's magnificent LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE. The reviews I've read seem to think the play is a sort of battle of wills between Hector and another teacher for the souls of a group of boys doing an intensive cram session for their college boards. Hector supposedl Utterly useless play. The occasional "witty" line, but the whole thing felt very self-serving, self-congratulatory, and mechanical. And this pile of self-consciously Teddibly Intellectual Claptrap won the Tony for Best Play over Martin McDonagh's magnificent LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE. The reviews I've read seem to think the play is a sort of battle of wills between Hector and another teacher for the souls of a group of boys doing an intensive cram session for their college boards. Hector supposedly represents the joy of learning for its own sake, while the other guy is all about passing the tests by any means necessary, history truth beauty be damned. The titular boys are a pretty mixed bag, but the play eventually sort of focuses on three of them: The Cute One, The Religious One, and The Gay One. The Gay One, of course, is hopelessly and predictably in love with The Cute One. There's even Fat One. The play's lone female role is shoehorned into the story, mainly so that the women in the audience can have someone to identify with. It gets rather cloying, though, and I was frankly annoyed by her little speech about history being all about men's failures: it felt entirely too much as if Bennett had suddenly decided to pander to the women in the audience to keep them from finding the play a bore. A more interesting female character might have been Hector's wife, but that would have gone into territory that Mr. Bennett isn't going to touch, as it might be something irresolvable with a witty one-liner, and would have shifted the focus away from the Boys. One of the major plot points is Hector's unfortunate habit of fondling his students. Mr. Bennett and his play bend over backward to present this as a harmless eccentricity, but it just doesn't wash. Sorry, I don't have a problem with someone losing their job for groping students. And I found myself wondering about the simple mechanics of it. We're supposed to believe that the morbidly obese Hector (at least as played by the brilliant but morbidly obese Richard Griffiths) plays with the genitals of students sitting behind him on a motorcycle. In broad daylight. At a public intersection. Every day. And only a woman behind the counter in a thrift shop notices. And I was not happy with the tragic fates of the gay characters. One dead, one in a wheelchair, one a housebound emotional cripple, while the straight folks all live (more or less, this is Alan Benett's universe after all) happily and wealthily ever after. And people bitched about BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN perpetuating the myth of gayness as misery? Down, blood pressure, down...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    A wonderful, witty play. A group of eight teenage boys are in their final year of school, preparing to take scholarship examinations for university. Oxford or Cambridge admission is the big prize. Their teachers have different ideas about the role of education which seem competitive but are complementary. The boys and teachers verbally joust and show off throughout the play as they struggle to find what they think will be the best way to succeed at the exams. Should they learn to be showmen of h A wonderful, witty play. A group of eight teenage boys are in their final year of school, preparing to take scholarship examinations for university. Oxford or Cambridge admission is the big prize. Their teachers have different ideas about the role of education which seem competitive but are complementary. The boys and teachers verbally joust and show off throughout the play as they struggle to find what they think will be the best way to succeed at the exams. Should they learn to be showmen of history, hiding their shallow knowledge with a glib and deft ability to turn a question on its side, learning how to hide their deflection by cloaking it in humour, outrageous comments and witty asides? Or should they foster an understanding and appreciation of a wider range of inquiry? Being boys of late teenage years, they also are wrestling with their sexuality and its expression, and are further burdened by society's oppression of gays, which was only beginning to weaken in the 1980s when this is set. Alan Bennett's style is as usual gentle, witty and incisively understanding of the human condition. Highly recommended. Also highly recommended is Manny's funny "Digested Read" style review on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stef Smulders

    Not lucky with this one: ebook lacks the direction instructions and in the filmscript the scenes are extremely short, not suitable to be read as a story without the staging. Gave up.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sookie

    Alan Bennett's dialogues have layers. Bennett uses poets, writers and artists as a subtle influencing factors to bring home a larger point. Auden is heavily quoted and acts as a metaphor for Hector's lifestyle. One of his pupils, Timms, quotes Auden and uses it outside the context to explain Hector's behavior to Irwin. Its clever and plays out as fantastic inside joke among the boys. The boys stand on the edge that separates adolescence and adulthood. With college exams and interviews around the Alan Bennett's dialogues have layers. Bennett uses poets, writers and artists as a subtle influencing factors to bring home a larger point. Auden is heavily quoted and acts as a metaphor for Hector's lifestyle. One of his pupils, Timms, quotes Auden and uses it outside the context to explain Hector's behavior to Irwin. Its clever and plays out as fantastic inside joke among the boys. The boys stand on the edge that separates adolescence and adulthood. With college exams and interviews around the corner, the school headmaster invites two teachers to help the kids. What starts off as a discussion in history, it broadens the way each of the boys is allowed and made to think. In a world that relies heavily on the system that manufactures and hones intelligence to perform specific duties, one of the eccentric teachers forces the boys to step out of the mundane, the rote, the known path, the traditional way of thinking, and see history for what it can be. Not what it is but what it can be. Coming from an all girls convent, there is a touch of nostalgia into it. There are teachers Hector and Irwin who can be both wonderful and disastrous at the same time; a touch on the shoulder too long, a glance below the neck and the discussions that follow later on. Is it all innocent under the guise of something far more sinister? It is hard to ascertain. Is it a jarring experience? Definitely. Bennett delivers one of his best lines: Lockwood: That's why it is a work of art in the first place. You can't look at a Rembrandt and say 'in other words', can you sir? Touche, Mr. Bennett. Touche.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    Subjunctive history, discussing that gets five star alone. I have to get myself a copy of the book and read it at my own pace. There is a lot covered in this play. At first, listening to the first disc, I didn't get into it, but then I concentrated on the dialogue and not the voices. I wonder if this play would translate to other countries. Plays, essays, films, or novels that are set in school usually evokes an unpleasant feeling for me, (To Sir With Love being an exception.) The History Boys ha Subjunctive history, discussing that gets five star alone. I have to get myself a copy of the book and read it at my own pace. There is a lot covered in this play. At first, listening to the first disc, I didn't get into it, but then I concentrated on the dialogue and not the voices. I wonder if this play would translate to other countries. Plays, essays, films, or novels that are set in school usually evokes an unpleasant feeling for me, (To Sir With Love being an exception.) The History Boys had two themes. The first, the unorthodox inspirational teacher inevitably drawing the ire of the conservative Headmaster or School Board. The second theme of Hector's 'hands-on' dodgy stuff toward the students was treated as not terribly grave. I wonder which of these two themes is meant to be the most important in this play. This subject of an unorthodox inspirational teacher in a conservative conventional old established school has been done as a film a number of times. I have to add something from the play that made me smile. The teacher Mrs. Lintott remembers teaching in London in the '70s. "There was a consoling myth that not very bright children could always become artists, droves of the half educated left school with the notion that art, or some form of self-realisation was a viable option."

  10. 5 out of 5

    stephanie

    because i am an intellectual snob, and because i am a sucker for british accents, and because i LOVE history, and because i went to an all-girls school that decidedly wanted to get everyone into the ivies, i must admit i'm a little bit of a biased reader. (basic plot of the play: everyone is trying to get into oxford, and are therefore studying for their major exams in history. sex plays a large role - or, really, rather, lust.) however, i also must admit i found some of the characters annoying, because i am an intellectual snob, and because i am a sucker for british accents, and because i LOVE history, and because i went to an all-girls school that decidedly wanted to get everyone into the ivies, i must admit i'm a little bit of a biased reader. (basic plot of the play: everyone is trying to get into oxford, and are therefore studying for their major exams in history. sex plays a large role - or, really, rather, lust.) however, i also must admit i found some of the characters annoying, and wished they had less time. dakin, for instance, just pissed me the hell off. also, i didn't like irwin, and poor hector - though. (it was really interesting to watch this play a couple weeks after seeing "doubt" - they are remarkably similiar in the crux of their subject matter, but oh, so so different.) anyway, that might be part of the reason i didn't like irwin so much. the play reminds me of what possibly a young, not-fully-developed stoppard would have written. anyway, i think seeing it on stage kind of sold me on it, not to mention that i was in love with the guy who played lockwood. i think rudge is very overlooked character, and i also (of course) loved scripps. the film version was a little disappointed, if only because the stage version was very innovative - and yeah, they changed the ending a bit. kind of lame. still, you get to see the original actors and hear their voices, which is pretty damn cool.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC Radio 4 Extra: Adapted for radio by Richard Wortley from Nicholas Hytner's National Theatre production. More than three decades on from Forty Years On, Alan Bennett turns his attention once more to education, encompassing both the tussles of staffroom rivalry and the anarchy of adolescence. Hector ...... Richard Griffiths Irwin ...... Geoffrey Streatfeild Mrs Lintott ...... Frances de la Tour The Headmaster ...... Clive Merrison Crowther ...... Samuel Anderson Posner ...... Samuel Barnett Dakin From BBC Radio 4 Extra: Adapted for radio by Richard Wortley from Nicholas Hytner's National Theatre production. More than three decades on from Forty Years On, Alan Bennett turns his attention once more to education, encompassing both the tussles of staffroom rivalry and the anarchy of adolescence. Hector ...... Richard Griffiths Irwin ...... Geoffrey Streatfeild Mrs Lintott ...... Frances de la Tour The Headmaster ...... Clive Merrison Crowther ...... Samuel Anderson Posner ...... Samuel Barnett Dakin ...... Dominic Cooper Timms ...... James Corden Akthar ...... Sacha Dhawan Lockwood ...... Andrew Knott Scripps ...... Jamie Parker Rudge ...... Russell Tovey Solo singer ...... Samuel Barnett Pianists ...... Jamie Parker and Tom Attwood Produced by David Hunter. Musical arrangement by Richard Sissons. Director Richard Wortley. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007g95p

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mghulett

    I've read this play at least twelve times. Same with the movie. It's a play about a group of high school boys that are in the Oxford/Cambridge group (they have the highest grades and are eligible for these two colleges.) Through out their senior year they must cram in not only facts about history, culture, and literature but they are given a new teacher who teaches them how to spice up their essays. There are many twists in the story but i'm not going to reveal them... I think that EVERYONE shou I've read this play at least twelve times. Same with the movie. It's a play about a group of high school boys that are in the Oxford/Cambridge group (they have the highest grades and are eligible for these two colleges.) Through out their senior year they must cram in not only facts about history, culture, and literature but they are given a new teacher who teaches them how to spice up their essays. There are many twists in the story but i'm not going to reveal them... I think that EVERYONE should read this. It's one of my favorite books of all time.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dane Cobain

    Despite the fact that I’ve read a few Alan Bennett books before, this one is the first of his plays. That’s kind of weird to me because I predominantly know of him as a playwright, but this one was worth the wait. Bennett just has a knack for writing great dialogue and so plays are the perfect medium for him to write in, and some of the lines almost reminded me of Oscar Wilde. All in all then, this was a fun little read that I sped right through.

  14. 4 out of 5

    James

    The play is a great read for many reasons and all of them deeply resonated with me. Most important was the devotion to the importance of language (centered on the "dictionary" boy role of Posner) and music and ideas, more clearly emphasized in the play than in the screenplay for the film (also written by Bennett). The play contrasts the differing perspectives on education of the two lead teachers (Hector and Irwin). Without the need to "open up" demanded by film Bennett focuses on the schoolroom The play is a great read for many reasons and all of them deeply resonated with me. Most important was the devotion to the importance of language (centered on the "dictionary" boy role of Posner) and music and ideas, more clearly emphasized in the play than in the screenplay for the film (also written by Bennett). The play contrasts the differing perspectives on education of the two lead teachers (Hector and Irwin). Without the need to "open up" demanded by film Bennett focuses on the schoolroom and uses subtle effects to effect his dramatic purpose. One aspect of the play that stands out is the multiple narrators throughout the drama. Bennett is at his epigrammatic best and the audiences in New York showed their appreciation of this as noted by the reviews. He is successful in creating a delightful dramatic and comedic portrayal of ideas, all while evoking the spirit of bright young scholars at a key turning point in their lives. With reference to and in the spirit of Shakespeare he dramatizes events in and outside of the classroom touching on both the desires of the heart and the wonders of imaginative young minds. The battle between educational styles centers on the approaches to teaching of the teachers Hector (the idealistic humanist) and Irwin (practical and pragmatic). The foundation for the boys is Mrs. Lintott's straightforward, perhaps old-fashioned, approach to teaching history which has produced "well taught" boys; however that is not enough to assure them success in achieving entrance to Oxford or Cambridge. The headmaster, in his "wisdom" adds into the mix a young teacher just up from Oxford to give the students an "edge". It is his, Mr. Irwin's, pragmatic method which uses paradox and the subjunctive. He aims to turn the historical facts upside-down, with little regard for the "truth" of the situation providing the "history boys" the ammunition to go to battle with the methods of Hector, the humanistic "general studies" teacher who attempts to enlist the boys into a conspiracy against the world and the "education" they are supposedly receiving. "Mrs. Lintott: They're all clever. I saw to that. Hector: You give them an education. I give them the wherewithal to resist it." - "Scripps: But it's all true. Irwin: What has that got to do with it? What has that got to do with anything?" With all of this battle of educational styles there added an undercurrent of eroticism, both due to the nature of education itself, as Hector points out, and due to the psychological tensions among Dakin and his two admirers, Posner and Irwin. This combination, which explodes at times to produce riveting moments of theater, is what makes this play great. That and the magnificent literary style of Bennett that has continued to inspire me to this day.

  15. 4 out of 5

    El

    Some plays just are better when seen performed on the stage. Sometimes just reading a play loses something in the... well, translation. I have a feeling The History Boys is one of those. I'll bet on stage it's pretty interesting. I hear there's a movie from a few years ago that probably is worth watching. (This is all not to be confused with The Emperor's Club, the 2002 movie with Kevin Kline. I can't explain why but I seriously thought it might be based on this play. It was not. Silly rabbit! W Some plays just are better when seen performed on the stage. Sometimes just reading a play loses something in the... well, translation. I have a feeling The History Boys is one of those. I'll bet on stage it's pretty interesting. I hear there's a movie from a few years ago that probably is worth watching. (This is all not to be confused with The Emperor's Club, the 2002 movie with Kevin Kline. I can't explain why but I seriously thought it might be based on this play. It was not. Silly rabbit! Whatever, these boarding school/prep school titles all run together after a while.) This play is about a handful of smart British boys in a boarding school who do what boys do - talk about sex and stuff. Then there are three teachers, all of whom have completely different teaching styles, but it really comes down to who has the "better" teaching style, Hector or Irwin. I don't even know what the purpose was of Lintott at all, other than she was the token female in the entire play. Don't get me wrong, I think education is pretty spanking important, I encourage everyone to give it a try. That being said, I'm a mediocre student myself because, whatever, man, I want to learn what I want to learn, and tests and exams don't make me a smarter person, and I am a horrible test-taker anyway. What do grades really show you anyway? Not much, not in the long run, yet so much depends on those grades. The things I've learned on my own through my own reading outside of school has surpassed most of what I've learned while I was in school. And, well, that's pretty much the debate here in this play. There's certainly more to it than just that (other stuff that we've all experienced by reading/watching other stories about boarding schools/prep schools), but it felt like there wasn't much to it. Again, I think that has more to do with the sitting-and-reading aspect, and I'd likely feel differently if I watched an actual performance. But then, I'm a visual person anyway. I gave this an extra star just for including a part from this.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ned Gill

    Well that was tragic. Tragically good and soul destroying at least my fav Scripps didn't die because he is my role model. // END //

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lynda

    I love reading plays. This was wonderfully written.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Roger Brunyate

      Play of Ideas Although I work in the theater, I read this play with no thought of staging it, or even imagining it staged. It is just a pure play of ideas—brilliant, intriguing, often funny ideas—jostling together in a kind of imaginary space, with very little of the mechanics of stage-directions and settings. Indeed, although I am sure that Nicholas Hytner's original staging at Britain's National Theatre and again on Broadway must have been brilliant, the description of it in the foreword sound   Play of Ideas Although I work in the theater, I read this play with no thought of staging it, or even imagining it staged. It is just a pure play of ideas—brilliant, intriguing, often funny ideas—jostling together in a kind of imaginary space, with very little of the mechanics of stage-directions and settings. Indeed, although I am sure that Nicholas Hytner's original staging at Britain's National Theatre and again on Broadway must have been brilliant, the description of it in the foreword sounds cumbersome compared to the rapid shifts in time and place that can be taken for granted on the page. And the few minutes of the film version that I caught on television the other day just clogged the characters and situations with a lot of irrelevant detail you would not even have had on the stage. So read this play by all means, not as a stand-in for some other medium, but as an artwork in itself, as rich, free, and evocative as a poem. This study of a group of sixth-formers (high-school seniors) studying for entrance examinations to Oxford and Cambridge perhaps meant more to me because I share some of the background. In a long personal introduction which is alone worth the price of the book, Bennett describes visiting the glittering fairyland of an ice-bound Cambridge in December 1951 to take his exams (though he ultimately went to Oxford). I made the same journey seven years later, but with significant differences. I came from a school that traditionally sent its pupils to Oxbridge whereas Bennett, like the characters in this play, came from a public high school in the North where such goals were less usual. I entered in the sciences (turning to the arts later) and remember little of any special grooming for success; Bennett's schoolboys are history majors, and their preparation goes way beyond cramming them with the facts, but presenting them as well-rounded young men with an original turn of mind. These tasks in the play are entrusted primarily to two very different teachers. Hector (both his surname and nickname) teaches his acolytes behind closed doors, leavening a heady diet of English poetry with re-enactments of old movies; his classes are a smorgasbord of cultural references. He also mixes his pedagogy with a little pederasty, which is mostly tolerated by the boys who ride behind him on his motorcycle. The other teacher, Irwin, is a much younger man just arrived from Oxford himself. He has developed a technique for impressing the examiners by turning fixed ideas on their heads, and having just enough facts at one's fingertips to back up even such controversial positions. He suggests, for instance, that Britain got into the First World War for commercial advantage. "All this mourning," he says, "has veiled the truth. It is not so much lest we forget, as lest we remember." One of the most telling passages in the play comes when Hector and Irwin, now sharing a class, try to apply their respective methods to the Holocaust, both failing utterly to encompass its truth. Alan Bennett admits to using the Irwin method to cheat (as he calls it) on his own exams. But it is clear he had a Hector behind him also: he turned out to have one of the most brilliant and widely cultured minds of his generation. And one of the funniest.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lil

    I think it's cheating to count this as "reading" but it's such a treat to listen to, and I do want to hit my reading goal so.... R.I.P. Richard Griffiths, who brings so much to this audio recording. Everyone's great obviously, as was the film (and the live performance surely was) but Hector's longing is so much more palpable in this version.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lucia Caporalini

    "Dakin: The more you read, though, the more you see that literature is actually about losers. Scripps: No. Dakin: It's consolation. All literature is consolation." Absolutely brilliant and cheeky, sad and shameless. I'm astounded. Magnificent.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Wontons

    I first came across this play in its last form, as a film adaptation around 2009. By then, I was kicking myself for having missed the original West End production (though I'm not sure I would've been able to fly to New York in 2006, as much as I'd like to think of myself as a socialite with expendable income coming out of my ears). Luckily, I found a BBC radio dramatization, which, upon later reading the play, I learned was much closer to the stage production than the film. Don't get me wrong; I I first came across this play in its last form, as a film adaptation around 2009. By then, I was kicking myself for having missed the original West End production (though I'm not sure I would've been able to fly to New York in 2006, as much as I'd like to think of myself as a socialite with expendable income coming out of my ears). Luckily, I found a BBC radio dramatization, which, upon later reading the play, I learned was much closer to the stage production than the film. Don't get me wrong; I love the direction the film had taken, but I wanted to get as close as possible to the original play. At this point, I'm kind of rambling about my own pieced-together experience with this play because I love it so much. "The History Boys" is easily my favorite play, my favorite play to quote, and so on. The only thing better than the play is Bennett's notes preceding it. His narrative places everything into context, and the boys and their school and their struggle feel that much more real. I felt an immediate affinity to Posner and Scripps, though they are probably written such that they are immediately relatable, likable. I've followed the careers of many of the actors (Samuel Barnett and Russell Tovey are two of my favorite), and I don't think any other cast would have done the play justice. Read this book! Watch the film! It has the original West End cast! I mean, seriously, read this book. I reread it a few more times just to write a proper review. I don't think any other play or book would hand affected my mid-twenties as this one has.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    THE HISTORY BOYS. (2004). Alan Bennett. ****. This play by Bennett brings us into the lives of eight boys enrolled in a British boarding school. They are all in sixth form, equivalent to our U.S. senior class. They are being prepped for admission to colleges in Oxford or Cambridge, although none of them is a likely candidate. They are all exposed to at least two different methods of being taught history. One method is a free-ranging technique, where the event is less important than the method of THE HISTORY BOYS. (2004). Alan Bennett. ****. This play by Bennett brings us into the lives of eight boys enrolled in a British boarding school. They are all in sixth form, equivalent to our U.S. senior class. They are being prepped for admission to colleges in Oxford or Cambridge, although none of them is a likely candidate. They are all exposed to at least two different methods of being taught history. One method is a free-ranging technique, where the event is less important than the method of relating it. The other is the more traditional method of rote memorization. The two techniques lead to two very different sets of results among the young men. There are humorous scenes as confrontations occur between student and teacher; there are also scenes of high emotion as the instructors examine their methods and their effects on their charges. The young men are all at that age when they are becoming aware of sex and of the various natures of the posing of society. We get to follow these young men through their examinations by the panels from the various colleges, and share in both their successes and failures. This is not an easy play to read. There is, apparently, a filmed version of the play available that I will make an effort to find. The play won six Tony Awards in 2006. Recommended.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Leigh

    HECTOR: Uncoffined is a typical Hardy usage. It’s a compound adjective, formed by putting “un” in front of the noun or verb, of course. Unkissed, unrejoicing, unconfessed, unembraced—it’s a turn of phrase that brings with it a sense of not sharing, being out if it, whether because of diffidence or shyness, but holding back, not being in the swim of it. Can you see that? POSNER: Yes, sir. I felt that a bit. HECTOR: The best moments in reading are when you come across something, a thought, a feeling HECTOR: Uncoffined is a typical Hardy usage. It’s a compound adjective, formed by putting “un” in front of the noun or verb, of course. Unkissed, unrejoicing, unconfessed, unembraced—it’s a turn of phrase that brings with it a sense of not sharing, being out if it, whether because of diffidence or shyness, but holding back, not being in the swim of it. Can you see that? POSNER: Yes, sir. I felt that a bit. HECTOR: The best moments in reading are when you come across something, a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things that you’d thought special, particular to you. And there it is set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out and taken yours.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sacha

    this is one of my favourite films and so i was wary when i bought the play. i know this is the original text and the film came after but it's the film i've seen so many times and i didn't know what differences there would be. obviously there were differences because a story told on a stage with very little props can't be told in the same way as a film but i like both versions. there were a couple of scenes in the play that weren't in the film and vice versa and the ending was slightly different. this is one of my favourite films and so i was wary when i bought the play. i know this is the original text and the film came after but it's the film i've seen so many times and i didn't know what differences there would be. obviously there were differences because a story told on a stage with very little props can't be told in the same way as a film but i like both versions. there were a couple of scenes in the play that weren't in the film and vice versa and the ending was slightly different. but i really loved this. i read the lines in the characters voices and looked forward for the scenes i knew to be coming. i've read that this is a popular text to be studied in schools. i can't imagine what that would be like. very glad i read this.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Will Gillham

    How a writer can cram so much wit, intelligence, and culture into one play astounds me. Reading this during my A-Levels (whilst studying History) it completely reflects upon the absurdity, pressure, and confusion one feels at the turning point in your life: "If they like me and they want to take me because I'm dull and ordinary ... I may not know much about Jean-Paul Sartre, but I've got a handicap of four." This is a play that can spark debates and conversations as lively as those found in the te How a writer can cram so much wit, intelligence, and culture into one play astounds me. Reading this during my A-Levels (whilst studying History) it completely reflects upon the absurdity, pressure, and confusion one feels at the turning point in your life: "If they like me and they want to take me because I'm dull and ordinary ... I may not know much about Jean-Paul Sartre, but I've got a handicap of four." This is a play that can spark debates and conversations as lively as those found in the text.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Skip

    Alan Bennett's fascinating play (which was made into a well-received motion picture starring the original cast from the West End and Tony Award-winning Broadway stage productions) about a group of English high school students studying for their Oxbridge entrance examinations, and how they are tutored by two different professors who possess contrasting teaching styles. Absolutely joyful, exuberant and bittersweet at the same time, the examination of their relationships with their tutors and each Alan Bennett's fascinating play (which was made into a well-received motion picture starring the original cast from the West End and Tony Award-winning Broadway stage productions) about a group of English high school students studying for their Oxbridge entrance examinations, and how they are tutored by two different professors who possess contrasting teaching styles. Absolutely joyful, exuberant and bittersweet at the same time, the examination of their relationships with their tutors and each other clues us in to their seemingly disparate personalities that somehow blend them together.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Green

    2.5 stars - This play was quite good. I liked the underlying messages about teaching and politics and the final message at the end. I didn't find it that funny but i'm looking forward to studying this one

  28. 4 out of 5

    Barry Turner

    I am a late arrival at the platform containing one of the most hyped plays of modern times. Alan Bennett, lugubrious Yorkie, has been feted like some kind of colossus of literature for this tale of 80s grammar school sixth-formers aspiring to the silver spires of Oxford or Cambridge.  Perhaps because I was not caught up in the critical storm of approval for the theatre production, and later movie,  that I can take a more dispassionate view. One thing struck me immediately as discordant - the set I am a late arrival at the platform containing one of the most hyped plays of modern times. Alan Bennett, lugubrious Yorkie, has been feted like some kind of colossus of literature for this tale of 80s grammar school sixth-formers aspiring to the silver spires of Oxford or Cambridge.  Perhaps because I was not caught up in the critical storm of approval for the theatre production, and later movie,  that I can take a more dispassionate view. One thing struck me immediately as discordant - the setting in 1983 did not tally at all with the story which was clearly based on Bennett's own experiences of the 1950s. In fact it was ludicrously out of sync. To have quasi-intellectual teenagers quoting from popular movies and choosing Brief Encounter  instead of say A Man For All Seasons was just wrong.  And then there was the covert and later overt homosexuality one associates with public schools - certainly not grammar schools in the 50s or even later. I can see the appeal of pupils being subject to different ways of inculcating the intellectual tools required for the Oxbridge exam from an old veteran master and a new, flashy one but I felt it fell down on too many levels. I speak from some experience. When I went to grammar school, my later next door neighbour Shirley Williams, decided we should go comprehensive. After three years being whipped by masters in black capes we were then bashed by thugs from the local secondary modern. Incredibly, in a small poverty stricken coastal town, and despite the trauma of  the change, five of my chums got into Oxford. An infinitely more dramatic tale which I may, one day, write about,

  29. 4 out of 5

    Emma Getz

    I just randomly picked up this play after finding it at a book sale and I have to say it really, really is not what I expected. As a history major, though, I appreciated one of the main ideas communicated through the work. That is, historians, and for that matter many types of academics and journalists, separate themselves so much from history itself that it becomes a job, a game, a means to an end or a profit/reward. There is a huge pressure to deliver a "hot take," a new perspective that will c I just randomly picked up this play after finding it at a book sale and I have to say it really, really is not what I expected. As a history major, though, I appreciated one of the main ideas communicated through the work. That is, historians, and for that matter many types of academics and journalists, separate themselves so much from history itself that it becomes a job, a game, a means to an end or a profit/reward. There is a huge pressure to deliver a "hot take," a new perspective that will change the way people think, and that gets in the way of understanding history itself, especially its darkest moments. The plot itself though was just strange to me. Why was Hector memorialized? Why did Posner's ending have to be so bleak? I genuinely do not understand what this play was supposed to be saying besides the point I made previously. Anyway, I admit it was clever and funny and I am a sucker for A.E. Housman and W.H. Auden references, so that was fun at least.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    I think this is perhaps my favourite Play by Bennett, I hits me in all the right places! It is classic Bennett, northern humour with barbs that sting. It is desperately clever and references all manner of inteligensia and makes me think about the nature of fact versus interpretation in History and every single time it makes me cry. Pass it On Boys, Pass it on!

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