Students have the opportunity to earn several academic prizes. Prizes are awarded for composition (writing), recitation (memorizing and reciting), or oratory (reading and delivering a speech on the reading). All selections for recitation, oratory, and study are intended to provide the student with examples for his own writing as well as ready access to great ideas. Students attempting work for a prize must contact the tutor with their intentions; all prize work must be presented a minimum of two weeks before Defense Day.
Prizes for Composition
The Lewis Prize for Excellence in Writing
A key goal of Scriptorium Hall is to help students become thoughtful, effective writers. The Lewis Prize was instituted to promote excellence in writing. It is awarded at the end of each semester to one student who has demonstrated excellence, great improvement, or great diligence in writing. The prize is named in honor of C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), a distinguished scholar of literature and an excellent writer of both fiction and non-fiction. *NOTE: Only work completed for course assignments will be considered.
The Matlack Prize for Penmanship
Named for Timothy Matlack, likely the man who engrossed (wrote out) the Declaration of Independence, this prize is awarded to the student who demonstrates excellence in penmanship skills through a hand-written project during the semester. Students must have their projects approved by the tutor before beginning.
The Laureate Prize for Poetry
Scriptorium Hall seeks to help students value the beauty of well-crafted language. In support of this goal, any student who writes and presents a traditional poem – that is, a poem expressing an idea through regular meter and rhyme, not free verse – following the guidelines found here, will receive the Laureate Prize. The prize is named for the office of Poet Laureate which is held by a person who composes poems for a government or other organization. *NOTE: No work completed to fulfill course requirements will be considered.
The Caedmon Prize for Medieval Poetry
Any student who writes one of each type of the following medieval poems will be considered for the Caedmon Prize for Medieval Poetry. Please see this document for poem descriptions:
The prize is named for one of the earliest medieval poets, Caedmon, who wrote a poem on the Creation (as translated by Elaine Traherne at the British Library’s site):
“Now we ought to praise the Guardian of the heavenly kingdom,
The might of the Creator and his conception,
The work of the glorious Father, as he of each of the wonders,
Eternal Lord, established the beginning.
He first created for the sons of men
Heaven as a roof, holy Creator;
Then the middle-earth, the Guardian of mankind,
The eternal Lord, afterwards made
The earth for men, the Lord almighty.”
The Madison Prize for Written Statesmanship
Scriptorium Hall encourages students to understand and appreciate their position as citizens of the United States. To promote student participation in the debates on political and moral issues, the Madison Prize is awarded to the student who most takes advantage of his Constitutional right to communicate and who thoughtfully offers his opinion to the public by writing letters to the editor of his local newspaper. The Madison Prize is named in honor of James Madison (1751-1836), a primary author of the U.S. Constitution, who also contributed to The Federalist Papers, which explained the benefits of the Constitution. *NOTE: No work completed to fulfill course requirements will be considered.
The King Alfred the Great Prize for the Best Senior Thesis
Named for King Alfred the Great (849-899) of Wessex, who was famous for his efforts to learn to read and improve the education of his subjects, the prize is awarded to the best senior thesis. *NOTE: Only work completed to fulfill the requirement of the senior thesis will be considered.
Prizes for Handicraft
The Michelangelo Prize for the Best Semester Project
The semester project best-demonstrating artistry, handicraft, and clear relationship to the student’s course will receive the Michelangelo Prize; the student’s House will also receive House points. Provided that prize-worthy work is submitted, one prize will be awarded in each of the following four categories:
- Best illuminated manuscript submitted for a history course
- Fine Arts – All projects involving painting, drawing, sculpture, mosaic, papier-mâché, music, and any illuminated manuscript submitted for a literature course
- Common Arts – All projects involving sewing, woodcarving, metalworking, masonry, dioramas, blacksmithing, carpentry, gardening, baking, cooking, weaving, leatherworking (not related to arms and armor)
- Armor – All projects involving creation of shields, helmets, weapons, surcoats, life-size outdoor fortifications, and demonstrations of ancient and medieval martial exercises/swordsmanship
The Mercator Prize for Atlas-Making
Any student who creates an atlas containing all of the required maps for the specified course will receive the Mercator Prize for Atlas-Making. All maps must be drawn and labeled by hand. Any student may make the atlas for any course. The prize is named for Gerardus Mercator, the sixteenth-century cartographer who first published a book of maps as an “atlas”. Please see this document for the requirements for each era’s atlas:
Prizes for Composition & Oratory
The Homo Unius Libri Prize
Any student who composes and delivers an oration demonstrating growing mastery of a book read for his current course will receive the Homo Unius Libri Prize. *NOTE: The oration must be in addition to the essays assigned for the course; Defenses cannot be counted for the prize.
The Magdalen Prize
Named for the Oxford college of C.S. Lewis, the Magdalen Prize is awarded to any student who reads at least two works by Lewis and composes and delivers an oration on a theme running through both works (fiction, non-fiction, or both). A list of Lewis’ works is available here in timeline format. *NOTE: No work completed to fulfill course requirements will be considered.
The Pilecki Prize for Research in Heroism
Polish resistance fighter Witold Pilecki (1901-1948) is one of the greatest heroes of the twentieth century, but he is also one of the least-known. Having volunteered to be sent to Auschwitz, led a Polish force during a crucial battle in the Warsaw Uprising, and opposed the Soviet conquest of Poland, Pilecki was executed 25 May 1948; his body has never been found, and Poles were forbidden to speak of him for 40 years. Pilecki, “an example of inexplicable goodness at a time of inexplicable evil,” is commemorated with this prize, awarded to any student who composes and delivers an oration on the life of a resistance worker or dissident opposing one of the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century. *NOTE: No work completed to fulfill course requirements will be considered.
The Plutarch Prize for Biography
Plutarch (46-120 AD), a Greek historian living at the time of the Roman empire, is best known for his series of biographies. Many of them are written in pairs intended to compare and contrast their subjects. Any student who composes and delivers an oration comparing two historical figures will receive the Plutarch Prize. *NOTE: No work completed to fulfill course requirements will be considered.
The Xenophon Prize for the Study of Military History
Xenophon (430-354 BC) was a Greek historian who wrote an account of the Greek expedition to Persia in the late 400s BC and of its successful return to Greece. He is one of the earliest historians of war. Any student who composes and delivers an oration explaining the course and significance of a war will receive the Xenophon Prize. *NOTE: No work completed to fulfill course requirements will be considered
The Shakespeare Prize
Any student who reads one of Shakespeare’s thirty-eight plays and composes and delivers an oration on it will receive the Shakespeare Prize. *NOTE: No work completed to fulfill course requirements will be considered.
The Grant Prize
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) is best-known for defeating the Confederacy as a Union general during the Civil War. As president, he protected the rights of the Freedmen. As a husband and father, he worked tirelessly to be with and provide for his family. As he died of cancer, he penned a lengthy account of his experiences during the Civil War. Any Scriptorium student who reads Grant’s Personal Memoirs and composes and delivers an oration on it will receive the Grant Prize.
The Tolkien Prize
Commemorating the scholarship and creative genius of J. R. R. Tolkien, this prize is awarded to any student who reads The Lord of the Rings and composes and delivers an oration on one of its themes.
The Churchill Prize
Any student who reads at least one volume of Churchill’s literary or historical works and composes and delivers an oration on it will receive the Churchill Prize. Options include:
- Churchill’s speeches
- The River War
- Great Contemporaries
- Thoughts and Adventures
- A History of the English-Speaking Peoples – This work is four volumes long; the student only needs to read one volume. The link goes to the first volume.
- The World Crisis – Churchill’s history of World War I (he was both a government official and a soldier during the war); This work is four volumes long; the student only needs to read and present on one volume. The link goes to the first volume.
- The Second World War – Churchill’s history of World War II (he was Prime Minister of Britain during the war); This work is six volumes long; the student only needs to read and present on one volume. The link goes to the first volume.
*NOTE: No work completed to fulfill course requirements will be considered.
The Dickens Prize
Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was one of the greatest English novelists of the 19th century. Most of his works center on the social and technological changes which occurred in Britain. He is known for his masterful observance of character. Any student who reads a Dickens novel and composes and delivers an oration on it will receive the Dickens Prize. *NOTE: No work completed to fulfill course requirements will be considered.
The de Tocqueville Prize
The Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) was one of the greatest observers of American culture. Any Scriptorium student who reads de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and composes and delivers an oration on a theme from the book and its relationship to modern American culture will receive the de Tocqueville Prize.
The Karamazov Prize
Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) and Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) were two of the greatest novelists, not only of Russia, but of the western tradition. Through their skill, their works give valuable insight into western thought and its relationship to Christianity — particularly in light of the the political, technological, philosophical, and artistic upheaval of the times in which they lived. Any student who reads a novel by Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy and composes and delivers an oration on it will receive the Karamazov Prize. *NOTE: No work completed to fulfill course requirements will be considered.
The Hugo Prize
Victor Hugo (1802-1885) wrote the longest novel traditionally included in the canon of western literature: Les Miserables. Although this prize is named for Hugo, it is awarded to any student who reads a novel of unusual length and composes and delivers an oration on it. These titles include:
- Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
- Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
- Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore
- The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
- Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
- and others – Please contact the tutor.
*NOTE: No work completed to fulfill course requirements will be considered. Works by Dickens, Tolstoy, and Dostoyevsky may not be included because other prizes may be received for reading and presenting on those works.
Prizes for Recitation
The Annapolis Prize
George Washington is best-known for being the first president of the United States, but he ought to be better known for the many times he gave up his power throughout his illustrious career as general and statesman. At Annapolis — then briefly the capital of the young United States — Washington delivered an address relinquishing his authority as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army following the successful conclusion of the American Revolution. Any student who memorizes and delivers Washington’s address — known to some as “the fourth most important document in American history” — will receive the Annapolis Prize for Recitation.
The Homer Prize
This prize is awarded to any student who memorizes and delivers a speech or dialogue, of significant length, from either the Iliad or the Odyssey. The prize is named for Homer, a Greek poet of the 700s BC who composed the Iliad and the Odyssey.
The Thucydides Prize
The Greek historian Thucydides (460-395 BC) wrote a history of the Peloponnesian War, the conflict between Athens and Sparta that destroyed Athens. Thucydides included many dialogues – often pairs of speeches between individuals on either side of the conflict. Any student who memorizes and delivers a speech or a dialogue (of sufficient length) from Thucydides will receive the Thucydides Prize.
The Cato Prize
Scriptorium Hall encourages study of the Greek and Roman classics, particularly their emphasis on the necessity of virtue for the citizens of a republic – a government form involving public participation, but which is defined by the restriction of the power of the government itself. Any student who memorizes and delivers Cato’s speech on the Catilinarian conspiracy will receive the Cato Prize. The text of the speech is available here. The prize is named for Marcius Porcius Cato Uticensis (95-46 BC), also known as Cato the Younger, one of the most virtuous citizens of the collapsing Roman republic. According to the ancient historian Plutarch, Cato remained steadfastly principled, even in the face of death. In response to the senator Catiline’s attempt to overthrow the Roman government, Cato gave this speech calling both for the punishment of the conspiracy and for the senators to live virtuous lives to preserve the republic.
The Cicero Prize
Any student who memorizes and delivers an oration by Cicero (106-43 BC) will receive the Cicero Prize. Possible orations include the defense of Aulus Archias, one of the Philippics against Marcus Antonius, and one of the four speeches against Catiline. Like Cato, Cicero also maintained a principled defense of the Roman republic and authored a clear explanation of the superiority of republicanism. He also wrote valuable treatises on friendship and moral duties.
The Virgil Prize
This prize is awarded to any student who memorizes and delivers one book from Virgil’s Aeneid, the story of the mythical founding of Rome. The prize is named for Virgil, a Roman poet of the first century BC.
The Dante Prize
Like Shakespeare, Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) of Florence, Italy, was one of the greatest poets. His works also encourage the cultivation of wisdom, virtue, and appreciation of true beauty. Any student who memorizes and delivers one canto of Dante’s Divine Comedy will receive the Dante Prize for his efforts.
The Shakespeare Prize
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was one of the greatest authors in the English language. His ingenious plots and adaptations, his intricate phrases, and his penetrating insights on virtue and action make his works ideal for cultivating discernment and love of beautiful language. Encouraging students to understand and appreciate high-quality literature is one of the goals of Scriptorium Hall. To further this goal, the Shakespeare Prize is awarded to any student who gives a recitation of a soliloquy and surrounding dialogue of roughly fifty or more lines from any Shakespeare play. *NOTE: No work completed to fulfill course requirements will be considered. Example soliloquies are listed below:
- The Tempest – Act III, Scene 3 – Ariel admonishes the conspirators (“You are three men of sin…”)
- Henry V – Act IV, Scene 1 – Henry’s soliloquy on ceremony (“Upon the King…”)
- Henry V – Act IV, Scene 3 – Henry’s St. Crispin’s Day speech (“If we are marked to die…”)
- Richard III – Act I, Scene 1 – Richard’s soliloquy about himself, opening the play (“Now is the winter of our discontent…”)
- Julius Caesar – Act III, Scene 2 – Antony’s speech at Caesar’s funeral (“Friends, Romans, countrymen..”)
- Hamlet – Act III, Scene 1 – Hamlet speaks about his life and death (“To be, or not to be…”)
- Taming of the Shrew – Act V, Scene 2 – Kate’s admonition to wives (“Fie, fie! unknit that threatening, unkind brow…”)
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Act 5, Scene 1 – Prologue (Both “If we offend…” and “Gentles, perchance you wonder at this show…”)
- The Merchant of Venice – Act III, Scene 2 – Basanio’s speech on appearances before the caskets (“So may the outward shows be least themselves…”)
- As You Like It – Act II, Scene 7 – Jacques’ soliloquy on the seven stages of life (“All the world’s a stage…”)
- The Winter’s Tale – Act 3, Scene 2 (“Since what I am to say…”; “More than mistress of which comes to me…”; and “Sir, spare your threats…”) – Queen Hermione asserts her innocence
- Henry IV, Part 1 – Act 3, Scene 1 (“Harry, I do not only marvel where thou spendest thy time….where hast thou been this month?” and “Now Harry, whence come you?…I do. I will.”) – Speeches of Falstaff and Prince Hal as they portray “Henry IV”; Act 3, Scene 2 (“For all the world, as thou art to this hour….than break the smallest parcel of this vow”) – Speeches of Henry IV and Prince Hal on Hotspur
- Henry IV, Part 2 – Act 4, Scene 5 (“I never thought to hear you speak again….And grant it may with thee in true peace live.”) – Speeches of Henry IV and Prince Hal on the crown; Act 5, Scene 2 (“You are, I think, assured I love you not….Harry’s happy life one day!”) – Speeches of Henry V and the Chief Justice
The Jefferson Prize
Scriptorium Hall encourages students to understand and value the principles which allowed the United States to become a great nation and which promote individual liberty. Any student who memorizes and delivers the Declaration of Independence in its entirety* will receive the Jefferson Prize for his efforts. The Jefferson Prize is named for Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), the author of the Declaration of Independence. *This is an enormous piece for memorization. The entire Declaration? Yes. In Little Town on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) recalls that both her fourteen-year-old self and her younger sister, Carrie, knew the Declaration by heart. Students older than Laura, not to mention Carrie, should be capable of rising to the task.
The Jay Prize
Scriptorium Hall encourages understanding of the U.S. Constitution and the American Founding. Any student who memorizes and delivers the Preamble of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights will receive the Jay Prize for his efforts. The Jay Prize is named for John Jay (1745-1829), one of the authors of the Federalist Papers and the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
The Lincoln Prize
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), though largely self-educated, was one of the most eloquent American presidents. Any student who memorizes and delivers one of Lincoln’s political speeches will receive the Lincoln Oratory Prize. Some of the best speeches include the Gettysburg Address, the First Inaugural, the Second Inaugural, and selections from the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.
The Churchill Prize
Winston S. Churchill (1874-1965), best known as the Prime Minister of Britain during World War II, was also an excellent writer, historian, painter, and orator. A man of great perseverance and steadfastness, Churchill consistently supported liberty and opposed the tyrannies of Nazism and Communism. Any student who memorizes and delivers one of Churchill’s speeches will receive the Churchill Prize. Texts of some of Churchill’s best speeches are available here.
The Coolidge Prize
President Calvin Coolidge sought to uphold the American founding principles during the heyday of the twentieth century. Any student who memorizes and delivers one of Coolidge’s speeches will receive the Coolidge Prize. Texts of some of Coolidge’s best speeches are available here (particularly consider his speech on the inspiration of the Declaration, his speech to the Boy Scouts, his speech on the press under a free government, and his speech welcoming Charles Lindbergh).