Hector is a romantic in every sense of the word. Not only does he prize literature, music and art above all things, he refuses to admit they should serve his students in any practical forum. He believes what is most important is that it awakens something in the student as an individual. Indeed, he states that one of the wonders of reading is the connection between reader and writer in which the former believes that the latter is speaking only to him. To prevent him from becoming an idealized figure, Bennett imbues him with liberal doses of hypocrisy and pathos. His marriage is viewed with perplexity by both himself and those around him. Lintott refers to his wife as “unexpected,” assuming that she chose Hector as a matter of convenience. Lintott also provides much-needed honesty when Hector tries to use literary flourishes to mask his indiscreet behavior. She frequently points out that his romantic perspective often serves to cover up his failings. In the end, Hector is beloved by his students, but not fully respected.

Irwin defines himself repeatedly in the play as a kind of antithesis to Hector. He refers to Hector’s lessons condescendingly, as if they were more amusement than education. He also fails to see the parallel between his relations with the boys and those of Hector. Despite the airs they adopt, both have a longing need to be liked by the boys. In addition, both behave inappropriately with them and allow the lines between teacher and student to become blurred. Irwin also creates an identity for himself that is based on lies and half-truths. First, he is misleading about where he went to school, perhaps in fear of comparison to the ones the boys will attend. Secondly, he repeatedly lies about his sexuality to both his colleagues and his students. Finally, his whole approach to teaching is a direct assault on the truth. His version of history is about spin, in which facts, quotes and ideas serve to showcase the cleverness of the arguer rather than the soundness of the argument itself.

Lintott serves as the voice of reason in The History...

(The entire section is 848 words.)