Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Alan Bennett's The History Boys. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
- Full Title: The History Boys
- When Written: 2004
- Where Written: England
- When Published: First performed in 2004.
- Literary Period: Contemporary drama
- Genre: British Realistic Drama
- Setting: Cutlers’ Grammar School, a fictional boys’ grammar school in Northern Britain, some time in the 1980s.
- Climax: While taking Irwin home on his motorcycle, Hector has an accident. The crash cripples Irwin and kills Hector.
- Antagonist: The Headmaster is in some ways the play’s antagonist. He is a strict and inflexible presence at the school, and comes across as anti-intellectual. He seems to care about the boys’ Oxford and Cambridge careers for the wrong reasons.
- Point of View: Play
Re-writing Posner for the stage. Alan Bennett changed and revised his script during the rehearsal process for The History Boys. He had originally written Posner as a boy who matures very late in life (this was based on Bennett’s own experience). In one early draft, the play’s last line was Posner saying, “It’s not all bad news. My voice is breaking.” But the play’s director, Nicholas Hynter, said that it would be too difficult to cast a teenaged actor whose voice had not yet broken. Bennett re-wrote the part to remove this detail.
Cheating death. In 1997, Alan Bennett was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He began work on an autobiographical work called Untold Stories, which he expected to publish only posthumously. But the chemotherapy worked, and Bennett’s cancer went into remission. He published Untold Stories, and in 2004, finished The History Boys.