Bennett explores the fine line between wisdom and foolishness in ‘The History Boys’. Discuss with reference to this comedic drama.
The fine line between wisdom and foolery has often been explored and blurred in dramatic comedies throughout the ages. Often, in Shakespeare’s plays especially, the fool figure turns out to be the wisest figure out of all of the other characters, and is used as a way to make a comment on the social context of the time. This theme is present in ‘The History Boys’, as Bennett mostly uses characters as a way of exploring the fine line. He also uses scenes and themes during the play to explore the fine line between wisdom and foolishness, but he tends to focus on using the characters to explore the line instead.
The Headmaster is a character with whom, when first introduced to, the audience would appoint the title of ‘foolish’, as Bennett shows him to be a very foolish character. However, this would differ from Shakespeare’s fool; in his plays the fools were often the wisest of characters, but in this circumstance, with this character, the Headmaster acts foolish without becoming ‘the fool’ from Shakespeare, as the Headmaster doesn’t have the hidden wisdom and knowledge Shakespeare’s fools had. For instance, when discussing competing schools in the league tables with Mrs Lintott, he says ‘…Leighton Park. Or is than an open prison? No matter…’ This quote shows the reader what a foolish man Bennett has created; a headmaster not knowing the difference between a competing school in the league tables and a prison is absurd. However, it helps Bennett to show the fine line between wisdom and foolery, as some members of the audience may think that the Headmaster is wise in some of the decisions he makes, as he does know methods to get the students to achieve academic levels that allow entry into Oxbridge. Another moment where Bennett explores the fine line is when he says, upon discussing Oxbridge with the supply teacher Irwin, ‘I thought...
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