Alan Bennett's The History Boys And Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost

1831 words - 7 pages

To What Extent Do You Believe that The History Boys and Love's Labour's Lost are Satires on Attitudes to Scholarship?

In The History Boys and Love's Labour's Lost, Shakespeare and Alan Bennett both satirise scholarship to various degrees. Love’s Labour’s Lost overall is more satirical; however, there is also an obvious element of satire in The History Boys. In Love's Labour's Lost, Shakespeare heavily satirises education and the pompous nature of some of those who consider themselves scholarly, particularly through the verbosity and pretentious nature of characters such as Holofernes and Armado, as well as the deluded ideas that the King and his Lords have on scholarship. On the other hand, in The History Boys, Bennett presents several views on education, especially through the two contrasting teaching styles of Hector and Irwin, and their respective merits, the ranging spectrum of the definitions of history given throughout the play, and the way he uses the character of Hector as a satire of traditional attitudes to scholarship.

In Love's Labour's Lost, Shakespeare satirises scholarship by painting a picture of a man who is convinced of his superior intelligence, but is actually a fool, using Don Armado, who greatly exaggerates the number and length of words he puts into his speech, along with his creation and misuse of words. An example of this is in Act V Scene 1, when he talks about meeting the princess 'in the posteriors of this day, which the rude multitude call the afternoon'. He uses the word 'posterior' absurdly, although technically makes sense, as it means towards the rear end, but is usually used to describe a human backside. Furthermore, he insinuates that he is a superior person intellectually, by referring to people who use the word afternoon as 'the rude multitude', when he is actually sounding extremely imbecilic, highlighting his ignorance. Holofernes, in a rarely perceptive, although rather hypocritical comment, says of Armado that 'He draweth out the thread of his verbosity finer/ than the staple of his argument'. This metaphor reaffirms the notion that the Armado is more concerned with his 'verbosity', and how pretty his sentences look, rather than honing, or making more fine the 'staple' of his argument, making his point accurately and well, and the metaphor is effective as it carries across the idea of a thread that is weak despite being superficially good-looking, similar to Armado’s speech. The words of both Don Armado, along with the comments made about him, emphasise his stupidity, and it is clear that he is an agent of Shakespeare's satire on scholarship.

Holofernes, the schoolmaster, is another one of Shakespeare’s chief instruments to satirise attitudes to education in Love’s Labour’s Lost through his misuse of language, in particular the way in which each of his sentences is decorated with Latin and synonyms. A good example of this is during a speech in Act IV Scene II, when he says: ‘Yet a kind of...

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