The History Boys by Alan Bennett

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‘The History Boys’ can only be ‘merely’ a farce to a certain extent; the use of shocking events juxtaposed with the facetious tone used to create the farcical elements Bennett utilises throughout the play, indicates a underlying polemic message that holds several different implications to the reader. Bennett uses farcical elements, although not exclusively, in the play. The comedic device of stock characters is exploited to the farcical subgenre, with them being created to provide the material for the inclusion of farce in the play. For example, the French scene in Act One predominantly these elements mixed with an underlying polemic and political message, which is prevalent throughout. Firstly, the audience is separated from the characters with the use of foreign dialogue. This reflects Hector’s need to make sure their lessons are ‘not a part of the system’ . When the headmaster enters the boys’ lesson with Hector, he is forced by Hector to speak French and accept the absurdity of the situation in the classroom. ‘Porquoi Belgique?’ He asks when the boys’ state they are playing the characters of wounded soldiers in Belgium. This choice of lexis by the Headmaster immediately betrays his stock character, revealing that he is the buffoon of the play, as this man, with the most legitimate power in the play, is manipulated into believing lies told be eighteen year old boys and an old general studies teacher of ‘studied eccentricity’ . In addition, this quote also highlights and exaggerates his ignorance and lack of intellect, as the Headmaster ‘was a geographer’ and ‘went to Hull’ . If one had studied Geography degree at university, it would be expected for them to know why wounded soldiers would be in Belgium. With the Headmaste... ... middle of paper ... ...farcical subgenre of comedy had been employed to amplify the effect of the underlying themes and messages on the reader. The word ‘merely’ presented in the question implies that there is no other purpose of the play other than to entertain. With the significant evidence from the play, this implication can become irrelevant. Furthermore, the play does not conform to the typical tripartite structure of a comedy; therefore, one could argue that it is in fact not merely a comedy, but rather is a tragicomedy, due to appropriate evidence from the play showing that ‘The History Boys’ includes elements of tragedy blended into the elements of comedy. The integration of farce throughout the play shocks and illuminates the extent of the severity of some of the highly improbable controversial situations that allow Bennett to convey messages about society and about our politics.

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