Award-winning novelist Robert Harris has selected the winner and three runners up of this year's Connell Guides Essay Prize.
Jeremy Choo, a sixth-form pupil at Winchester College, was chosen for his original essay on the First Gravedigger from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Robert Harris chose his essay from nearly 200 other entries. Jeremy has won the £500 prize and a full set of Connell Guides.
Commenting on the judging process Robert Harris said:
"There were some terrific entries in the competition, with some pleasingly unlikely choices but Jeremy Choo has both chosen an off-beat character, and followed it through with a well-argued case based upon a close reading of the text. I admired the clarity of his prose, avoiding showing-off and academic jargon, and his witty turn of phrase (the Gravedigger "manages to be comic, but not a relief"). I have been reading Hamlet and seeing the play on stage for the best part of 40 years, but I shall view it in a slightly different light after reading Jeremy Choo's essay."
The first runner up is Nicholas Hall for his essay on Brenda Last from Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust, followed by Emilia Kent for her piece on Death from Markus Zusak's The Book Thief and Ben Gregson for his essay on The Highwayman from the poem by Alfred Noyes. They each receive a full set of Connell Guides and a £50 gift voucher.
On hearing the news of his win this morning, Jeremy Choo, aged 18, said:
“Thank you for awarding me this year’s essay prize. Fatherland is probably the most revisited novel in my family’s household, so it is particularly bizarre and humbling to have received Mr. Harris’ recognition. It will surely have settled my decision to apply for English Literature at university after I finish my Pre-U examinations this May/June. On this 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, I hope to have highlighted where I believe the Bard’s true genius to lie: his modest, unpretentious roles which change the action, or our perception of the play.”
Above: Jeremy at a 24 hour Shakespeare-athon with Yorick's skull
The competition was open to all sixth-form pupils studying English Literature. Its aim is to encourage young people to think about and interpret literature in a way that helps to foster a life-long love of reading and writing. The judging panel were extremely impressed by the high standard of entries this year; it was clear the entrants had spent a lot of time working on their essays and were genuinely passionate about the texts they were writing about.
Jolyon Connell, founder of Connell Guides, said, “We were thrilled to have Robert Harris as our judge this year. We were inundated by would-be winners, I'm glad I didn't have to pick the winner myself.”
Huge congratulations to Jeremy, as well as our three runners up Nicholas, Emilia and Ben. They will each receive their well-deserved prizes soon.