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The Emperors Club is a movie starring Kevin Kline and is based on The Palace Thief by

Ethan Canin. Mr. Hundert, a Western Civilization teacher at a private school for boys in
the U.S., educates his students in the classical studies of Greek and Roman scholars,
but he also believes that it is his ultimate responsibility as an educator to mould the
characters of his students. He asks his students, "How will history remember you?" and
teaches his students that "Great ambition and conquest without contribution is without
significance." He encourages his students to walk with the great men who have walked
before them.

Setting
Private school, St. Benedict's School for boys, northeastern U.S., 1972

Main Characters

Mr. Hundert: teacher, assistant headmaster


Louis Masoudi: student
Deepak Mehta: student
Martin Blythe: student
Sedgewick Bell: student and son of Senator Bell
Senator Bell: father of Sedgewick Bell, West Virginia senator
Mr. Woodbridge: Principal/Headmaster
James Ellerby: colleague
Elizabeth: colleague

Vocabulary

Mr. Julius Caesar contest


toga
Socrates
Plato
virtue
time is precious
Western Civilization
oral conscience
fund raising
alumni
mould the character
Ivy League
linchpin

principle
Shutruk Nuhante/1158 BC
profound character
headmaster

Expressions

A man's character is his fate.


The die is cast. He crosses the Rubicon.
Great ambition and conquest are nothing without contribution.
The end depends upon the beginning.
It is not living that is important, but living well.

Questions
1. Describe Mr. Hundert. (Comment on his physical appearance, demeanor, character,
interactions with his students, relationships with other colleagues, view of his role as a
teacher, and any other observations)
2. Although Mr. Hundert is an experienced and exceptional teacher, he faces the most
difficult challenge of his entire teaching career. Why is he so shaken and then altered by
this experience?
3. Describe the influence that Sedgewick Bell has on the other boys. Mr. Hundert
describes Sedgewick's influence as "hypnotic". What does he mean by this?
4. The Mr. Julius Caesar Contest is an annual contest held to test the students'
knowledge of their studies of the Greeks and the Romans. When Mr. Hundert calculates
the final marks to determine the three candidates for the contest, he faces an ethical
dilemma. Describe the dilemma and Mr. Hundert's final decision.
5. Mr. Hundert is faced with another dilemma at the contest. What is it and what is the
final outcome? What happens when Mr. Hundert confronts Sedgewick about his
behavior at the contest?
6. Twenty-five years later, Mr. Hundert is asked to participate in a rematch of the Mr.
Julius Caesar Contest. Although Mr. Hundert is retired, he chooses to host the contest.
Why does he do this? What does he hope for? How is his hope both squashed and then
renewed?
7. Why does Mr. Hundert return to teaching? What surprise is there for him?