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The History Boys: A Play Paperback – April 4, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; 1st edition (April 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571224644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571224647
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Nothing could diminish the incendiary achievement of this subtle, deep-wrought and immensely funny play about the value and meaning of education . . . In short, a superb, life-enhancing play.” —The Guardian

“Brilliantly funny . . . The History Boys is moving, disquieting: one follows it with a heart brimful . . . His finest work in decades.” —Financial Times

About the Author

Alan Bennett is a renowned playwright and essayist whose screenplay for The Madness of King George was nominated for an Academy Award. He lives in London, England.


More About the Author

Alan Bennett is a renowned playwright and essayist, a succession of whose plays have been staged at the Royal National Theatre and whose screenplay for The Madness of King George was nominated for an Academy Award. He made his first stage appearance with Beyond the Fringe and his latest play was The Lady in the Van with Maggie Smith. Episodes from his award-winning Talking Heads series have been shown on PBS. His first novel, The Clothes They Stood Up In, was published in 2000. He lives in London.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 33 customer reviews
The award-winning play by Alan Bennett is a great read.
James Henderson
The scene directions (totally lacking in the play script) help the reader understand the many time- and scene-shifts that happen over the course of the story.
Charles S. Houser
The dialogue is sparklingly witty and smart and although there are many characters they each have a distinct spirit.
J. Adsit

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Charles S. Houser VINE VOICE on March 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
THE HISTORY BOYS, Alan Bennett's play (and now also a screenplay) is about a group eight teenage boys being groomed by their teachers and headmaster to pass the examination that hopefully will admit them to either Oxford or Cambridge University, and from there to who knows what kind of position of priviledge and leadership in the larger world. It takes place in the 1980s (a Pet Shop Boys song is the most current cultural reference in the play), and it is clear that the world, like the eight boys themselves, is in a period of transition. The boys, like boys everywhere, are easily distracted by sexual thoughts and are eager to impress one another and rattle their teachers. The two key influencers on their young lives are the English teacher, Hector, and a history teacher, Irwin. Hector plays yin to Irwin's yang. He floods the boys with poetry and literary quotations, encourages them to enact scenes in French, lets them quote movie dialogue in the hopes of stumping him and winnng the pool he forces them to contibute to, and fondles them as opportunity allows on the back of his motorcycle. Irwin, on the other hand, is a more cynical influence. The headmaster has called him in to teach the boys to perform, knowing that the examiners will be looking to be dazzled by memorable eccentricities rather than swayed by the accuteness of their thoughts, breadth of their reading, or depth of their wisdom. "History nowadays is not a matter of conviction. It's a performance. It's entertainment. And if it isn't, make it so." While everyone seems to be proceeding in earnest, the audience can't help but feel all these efforts are of little use in a world that is rapidly changing. As another teacher, Mrs.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Set in the 1980s in a boarding school in the north of England, this Tony Award-winner for Best Play of 2006 is a dramatic comedy involving eight young "sixth-formers" who are preparing for the history examinations necessary for entrance into Oxford or Cambridge. No one from their school has been accepted at either university in the past, and the headmaster is determined that this year will be different. To this end, he hires a young teacher, Irwin, to improve the students' "presentation" so that they will stand out from the crowd with the college examiners. Irwin's goal is to teach the students to think "outside the box"--not to be dull--when they answer questions.

This mission conflicts with the goals of the English and History teachers. Hector, the motor-cycle-riding English teacher, has taught the students reams of poetry, and they readily apply it to real-life situations. He has taught the French subjunctive (though it is not his subject) by conducting the class in French and having students pretend to be negotiating at a brothel. His classes are free-wheeling, often student-directed--taking the long view and valuing education for its own sake. The History teacher, Dorothy Lintott, has taught the facts: "They know their stuff. Plainly stated and properly organized facts need no presentation, surely," she remarks to the headmaster.

As the three teachers and the headmaster perform their duties, the eight students react as teenagers everywhere react, albeit a bit more politely. They banter and feed off each other's joking remarks, tease their teachers, get bopped on the head by Hector, challenge him to identify scenes from films (which they act out), and explore their favorite subject, sex.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By J. Adsit on February 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
I spent a summer in London on foreign exhange studying theatre and literature. While there I saw this play at the National Theatre. It blew my mind and touched my soul. Although I will admit my own bias as a future English teacher - I believe this play did an amazing job bringing to light questions regarding what it means to be an "educator" in a way that connects with us all. Do we teach kids in such a way that they acheive maximum acedimic success, or do we place the emphasis on teaching them literature in a manner that gives them the keys to understanding the world for themselves? To we teach them to understand with their minds or with their hearts?

There is also a darker current in which child molestation and sexual power are examined frankly and unabashedly with no judgements or prior assumptions. Bennett does an excellent job of keeping out of the way and allowing his characters to defend themselves without blurring the lines of morality and ethics. The dialogue is sparklingly witty and smart and although there are many characters they each have a distinct spirit. I couldn't help but fall in love with nearly every character in this play.

I cannot recommend this play any more highly. Buy it, rent it, borrow it, steal it - whatever you do - READ IT.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By D. N. Stone on January 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
The Stern Librarian saw this play on Broadway the same night as Iman--how beauty-packed the audience was that night. Those poor History Boys to have to perform to those dual points of radiance! I rarely read plays after seeing them performed, but I bought this volume on the way out of the theater. First, to read Alan Bennett's introductory essay, which is a characteristically funny and brave bit of autobiography. He reveals, among other things, the extent to which the actors created their own roles, the story of his own scholarship examinations, and his own brush with the type of historical detachment and journalistic flourish practiced by Irwin. The second reason I bought the play was to spend more time with that outsize, brilliant Hector. So many of his allusions went over my head during the play that I longed to savor them: snatches of poetry from Hardy, Housman, Whitman, Shakespeare; campy bits from Now, Voyager and Brief Encounter; dancehall songs. Hector's teaching that all knowledge is precious unless it is of any use will leave you wanting to be his lifelong pupil, if not a passenger on his motorcycle. The Stern Librarian (I'm not afraid of Virginia Wolfe).
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