The History Boys Essay
13. “Brilliantly funny….but by the end, tears are as near as laughter.” To what extent can we read The History boys as comedy?
One of the key factors that makes the History Boys such an iconic play is its witty comedic effect throughout the entire book. Using various techniques, such as parody, contrasting characters and clever juxtapositions within the plot, intelligent metaphors, bathos and many more. But at first glance the history boys could seem a typical dramatic themed book with a group of characters restricted almost entirely to a single location and a short period of time however looking deeper into the play you begin to notice the comedy reveal before your eyes.
Within Hector’s French lesson, the juxtaposition of Hector’s character immediately contrasts that of the headmasters as soon as he walks in. Hector’s strangeness and open-minded character contrasted with the headmaster’s strict adherence to rules, regulations and formality with Hector interrupting the headmaster’s dialogue “Mr Hector, I hope I’m not. . .” with the informal gesture that is “an admonitory finger.” The use of the “admonitory” there comically reverses the power balance between the two characters, with Hector playfully showing that he has authority in his lessons, much to the shock of the headmaster who feels both humiliated and challenged enough to try and speak French and keep up with the students. The Headmaster finds difficulty in speaking French, having to hesitate and show non- fluency features in “Pourqoui cet garcon . . . Dakin , isn’t it? . . .est sans ses trousers?” having to switch back to English with simple words “trousers” for lack of knowledge showing low confidence which brings amusement to the boys and to the audience. The headmaster is a subject of mockery because of his unlikable character. This unlikable character is emphasised later in the book with the Headmaster using the word “silliness” to describe the exercise that Hector had...
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