Unit 2: The History Boys

Presentation of Coursework

National Theatre Pack





Critical Reading


                            SESSION ONE
                           Irwin V Hector

Learning Goals:

To explore how Bennett establishes the opposition between the two main characters in Act One, and how and why the opposition is central to the play

History Boys 1

The truth behind the History Boys – Telegraph


                           SESSION TWO

To what extent can The History Boys be viewed as a satire of the Thatcher Years?

HB 2

Thatcher History Boys

                            SESSION THREE
                     How does Bennett create comedy?

Learning Goals:

To explore how we can categorise the History Boys as a comedy
To analyse how Bennett creates humour

Brainstorm all the typical ingredients of a comedy
To what extent can the History Boys be considered a comedy?

Type of Comedy

How does Bennett create comedy in the ‘French’ scene?
-the absurd

French scene

Select one other extract from the play that you find particularly comic and explain why.


                            SESSION FOUR
                   Hector:Shakespearean Fool or Tragic Hero?

Learning Goals

To evaluate the role and significance of Hector in The History Boys’

Shakespearean Fool

-Entertains the audience
-‘Larger than life’ character
-Well Liked
-Sometimes ridiculous
-Mocks those in power
-Delivers ‘home truths’ and imparts wisdom through comedy
-Educates the audience


The Tragic Hero

-Noble but imperfect (fatal flaw)
-Doomed from the start
-Suffers more than they deserve
-Gains audience’s sympathy

Explore the ways in which Hector could be seen as a Shakespearean Fool. Write at least one side of notes, referring closely to the play and using quotations to back up your ideas

Explore the ways in which Hector could be seen as a tragic hero.

Write at least one side of notes, referring closely to the play and using quotations to back up your ideas

Now evaluate both interpretations. Which one do you think best describes the role of Hector in ‘The History Boys’?



                             SESSION 5
                    Comic Structure: Happy Ending?
  • In pairs brainstorm what you expect from the ending to a comedy.
  • Re-read pages 102-ending


” I just wanted to say thank you”
-how do you react to Darkin’s proposition?
-how does the tone change here from the previous scene?
-how would you describe the humour?

“So everybody’s happy”
-to what extent is there a satisfactory resolution at this point in the play?
-why do you think Bennet decides not to end the play here?

“Actually I shouldn’t have said everybody’s happy…..”
-What is the effect of having Scripps ‘step outside’ the action here, as a ‘retrospective narrator’

What is the significance of Rudge’s song?

How is Scripp’s account of the accident slightly comic?

Irwin’s tragic fate is foreshadowed, but Hector’s comes a surprise-why do you think this is?

Why do you think Bennett decides to kill Hector?

What other characters seem to have a tragic fate?

Why do you think Scripps and Mrs Lintott are selected to play the roles of retrospective narrators? What is the effect of this?

What is the effect of Bennett’s flexible use of time within the play (consider the title!)?

A comic resolution is one in which all loose ends are tied up, harmony is restored, there is a sense of celebration and society is restored to the status quo. To what extent is this true of The History Boys?

A comic tragedy or a tragic comedy?  Which statement do you most agree with and why?

                            SESSION SIX
                         Coursework questions

Comparing Notes

What have you learned after successfully completing your first piece of coursework?
What are the most important things to remember?
How do you make sure that you meet the success criteria?
What will you do?
What will you NOT do?
Which diagram so you feel most exemplifies the structure of The History Boys and why?

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 18.56.27

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 18.56.35

2 emag articles on The History Boys


Coursework Questions

To what extent can Hector be considered a Shakespearean fool?

‘ The tone says life is fun. The undertone says life is a catastrophe’ To what extent is this true of the History Boys?

‘Comedy traces the movement from distress to happiness, from bad to good’ How far do you find this to be true of The History Boys?

How far do you agree that Alan Bennett provide a satisfactory comic resolution in The History Boys?


                           SESSION SEVEN
                        Drafting your essay

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