The Internet TESL Journal

A Handout for the Movie The Emperor's Club

Jacqueline Lay
Malaspina Univeristy-College (Duncan, BC, Canada)


This handout can be used immediately by teachers to accompany the movie The Emperor's Club. It identifies vocabulary and phrases from the movie, and it also lists comprehension questions for discussion. The vocabulary and questions are designed for advanced ESL students.

The Lesson

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.


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

Main Characters




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?

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. XI, No. 8, August 2005