AP English Literature : Excerpt Purpose in Context

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP English Literature

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Example Questions

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Example Question #81 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from Coriolanus by William Shakespeare (III.iii.152-167)

 

You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate

As reek o' the rotten fens, whose loves I prize

As the dead carcasses of unburied men

That do corrupt my air, I banish you;

And here remain with your uncertainty!

Let every feeble rumor shake your hearts!

Your enemies, with nodding of their plumes,

Fan you into despair! Have the power still

To banish your defenders; till at length

Your ignorance, which finds not till it feels,

Making not reservations of yourselves,

Still your own foes, deliver you as most 

Abated captives to some nation

That won you without blows! Despising,

For you, the city, thus I turn my back:

There is a world elsewhere.

In the context of the entire passage, the underlined section's use of the image of "plumes / fan[ning]" the listeners "into despair" serves which of the following purposes?

Possible Answers:

The speaker uses the image of the plume to draw attention to the insubstatial, vulnerable nature of those who banished him.

The speaker invokes the image of the plume in order to insult his listeners by demeaning their hygiene and associating them with members of the lower classes.

The image of the plume is used to draw attention to the empty promises the listeners have made to the speaker in the past.

The image of the plume is used to draw attention to the speaker's underlying uncertainty about his decision to leave the city.

The image of the plume is used to draw attention to the deplorable hygienic conditions in the city, which the speaker believes will ultimately result in its downfall.

Correct answer:

The speaker uses the image of the plume to draw attention to the insubstatial, vulnerable nature of those who banished him.

Explanation:

The speaker uses the image to draw attention to the insubstantial (and political) nature of his banishers, as well as their extreme vulnerability without him. The image of the plume picks up the speakers motif of "air" and "breath."

There is little mention of false promises, and while the speaker obviously feels betrayed, his emphasis in this speech is on his anger and immediate plans, and his focus is on attacking his banishers verbally.

While the speaker earlier mentions that his "air [has been] pollute[d]," this is far from his main focus.

The speaker does not seem particularly uncertain about anything, and he makes no specific mention of lower classes.

Example Question #82 : Interpreting Excerpts

From Hard Times by Charles Dickens (1854)

There was an air of jaded sullenness in them both, and particularly in the girl; yet, struggling through the dissatisfaction of her face, there was a light with nothing to rest upon, a fire with nothing to burn, a starved imagination keeping life in itself somehow, which brightened its expression. Not with the brightness natural to cheerful youth, but with uncertain, eager, doubtful flashes, which had something painful in them, analogous to the changes on a blind face groping its way.

She was a child now, of fifteen or sixteen, but at no distant day would seem to become a woman all at once. Her father thought so as he looked at her. She was pretty. Would have been self-willed (he thought in his eminently practical way) but for her bringing-up.

"Thomas, though I have the fact before me, I find it difficult to believe that you, with your education and resources, should have brought your sister to a scene like this."

"I brought him, father," said Louisa, quickly. "I asked him to come."

"I am sorry to hear it. I am very sorry indeed to hear it. It makes Thomas no better, and it makes you worse, Louisa."

She looked at her father again, but no tear fell down her cheek.

What is the purpose of the metaphors of light and fire in the underlined sentence?

Possible Answers:

They describe the environment of the scene, hinting at the surrounding physical objects near the characters.

They show the joy of youth, its vivacity and love for the world.

They describe the rage of Louisa at being caught by her father.

They contrast with the darkness and gloom of Louisa's father and brother.

They describe the way that Louisa was unable to focus her powers and desires on something specific.

Correct answer:

They describe the way that Louisa was unable to focus her powers and desires on something specific.

Explanation:

In this sentence, Louisa's imagination is described as being "starved." She has a dissatisfaction but a desire to be fulfilled—a fire that wishes to burn but does not have something to burn, a light that wishes to shine but can rest upon nothing. Therefore, these images are used as evocative metaphors for her internal state and her inability to focus herself on anything particular.

Example Question #4 : Phrase Usage

From “Essay on Liberty” by John Stuart Mill

Mankind can hardly be too often reminded, that there was once a man named Socrates, between whom and the legal authorities and public opinion of his time, there took place a memorable collision. Born in an age and country abounding in individual greatness, this man has been handed down to us by those who best knew both him and the age, as the most virtuous man in it; while we know him as the head and prototype of all subsequent teachers of virtue, the source equally of the lofty inspiration of Plato and the judicious utilitarianism of Aristotle, "i maëstri di color che sanno," the two headsprings of ethical as of all other philosophy. This acknowledged master of all the eminent thinkers who have since lived—whose fame, still growing after more than two thousand years, all but outweighs the whole remainder of the names which make his native city illustrious—was put to death by his countrymen, after a judicial conviction, for impiety and immorality. Impiety, in denying the gods recognized by the State; indeed his accuser asserted (see the Apologia) that he believed in no gods at all. Immorality, in being, by his doctrines and instructions, a "corrupter of youth." Of these charges the tribunal, there is every ground for believing, honestly found him guilty, and condemned the man who probably of all then born had deserved best of mankind, to be put to death as a criminal.

To pass from this to the only other instance of judicial iniquity, the mention of which, after the condemnation of Socrates, would not be an anti-climax: the event which took place on Calvary rather more than eighteen hundred years ago. The man who left on the memory of those who witnessed his life and conversation, such an impression of his moral grandeur, that eighteen subsequent centuries have done homage to him as the Almighty in person, was ignominiously put to death, as what? As a blasphemer. Men did not merely mistake their benefactor; they mistook him for the exact contrary of what he was, and treated him as that prodigy of impiety, which they themselves are now held to be, for their treatment of him. The feelings with which mankind now regard these lamentable transactions, especially the later of the two, render them extremely unjust in their judgment of the unhappy actors. These were, to all appearance, not bad men—not worse than men most commonly are, but rather the contrary; men who possessed in a full, or somewhat more than a full measure, the religious, moral, and patriotic feelings of their time and people: the very kind of men who, in all times, our own included, have every chance of passing through life blameless and respected. The high-priest who rent his garments when the words were pronounced, which, according to all the ideas of his country, constituted the blackest guilt, was in all probability quite as sincere in his horror and indignation, as the generality of respectable and pious men now are in the religious and moral sentiments they profess; and most of those who now shudder at his conduct, if they had lived in his time, and been born Jews, would have acted precisely as he did. Orthodox Christians who are tempted to think that those who stoned to death the first martyrs must have been worse men than they themselves are, ought to remember that one of those persecutors was Saint Paul.

What does the underlined expression “which they themselves are now held to be” prepare for that is discussed later in the passage?

Possible Answers:

The story of the high-priest rending his garments.

His condemnation of the actions of the people of Jesus' day.

The comparison that Mill makes between the people of Jesus' time and the men of his (Mill's) own age.

The contrast between the Jewish men of his own day and those of Jesus' time.

The contrast between these Jewish men and the orthodox Christians of Mill's own day.

Correct answer:

The comparison that Mill makes between the people of Jesus' time and the men of his (Mill's) own age.

Explanation:

The selection implies (rather directly) that certain people of Mill's own day believe Jewish people to be impious because of what they did to Jesus; however, as Mill later points out, the same people who make this unfair condemnation would likewise have been quite likely to do the same thing had they been alive during Jesus' own day. Therefore, this remark prepares for the comparison that is later made. In short, Mill first states that certain people of his own day hold Jewish people to be impious. Then, later on, he compares the men of his own day to the Jewish people of Jesus' time, showing that the "righteous" men of his time would be just as likely to do exactly the same as did the Jewish people then. Thus, he indirectly asserts that they too have the same character as those whom they condemn as impious.

Example Question #83 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from Act 1, Scene 1, ln. 78-119 of The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe (1604) in Vol. XIX, Part 2 of The Harvard Classics (1909-1914)

 

FAUST: How am I glutted with conceit of this!

Shall I make spirits fetch me what I please,

Resolve me of all ambiguities,

Perform what desperate enterprise I will?

I’ll have them fly to India for gold,

Ransack the ocean for orient pearl,

And search all corners of the new-found world

For pleasant fruits and princely delicates;

I’ll have them read me strange philosophy

And tell the secrets of all foreign kings;

I’ll have them wall all Germany with brass,

And make swift Rhine circle fair Wittenberg;

I’ll have them fill the public schools with silk,

Wherewith the students shall be bravely clad;

I’ll levy soldiers with the coin they bring,

And chase the Prince of Parma from our land,

And reign sole king of all the provinces;

Yea, stranger engines for the brunt of war

Than was the fiery keel at Antwerp’s bridge,

I’ll make my servile spirits to invent.

[Enter VALDES and CORNELIUS] 

Come, German Valdes and Cornelius,

And make me blest with your sage conference.

Valdes, sweet Valdes, and Cornelius,

Know that your words have won me at the last

To practice magic and concealed arts:

Yet not your words only, but mine own fantasy

That will receive no object, for my head

But ruminates on necromantic skill.

Philosophy is odious and obscure,

Both law and physic are for petty wits;

Divinity is basest of the three,

Unpleasant, harsh, contemptible, and vile:

’Tis magic, magic, that hath ravish’d me.

Then, gentle friends, aid me in this attempt;

And I that have with concise syllogisms

Gravell’d the pastors of the German church,

And made the flowering pride of Wittenberg

Swarm to my problems, as the infernal spirits

On sweet Musaeigus, when he came to hell,

Will be as cunning as Agrippa was,

Whose shadows made all Europe honor him.

The underlined section signals a shift in Faustus' __________.

Possible Answers:

mode of address, from soliloquy to direct address

tone, from defiant to obsequious

mode of address, from direct address to soliloquy

subject matter, from the occult practices to practical travel plans

tone, from angry to whimsical

Correct answer:

mode of address, from soliloquy to direct address

Explanation:

The highlighted lines signal a shift in Faustus' mode of address from soliloquy to direct address. At the beginning of the passage, Faustus remarks on his own emotional state ("How am I glutted with conceit") and proceeds to enumerate on his own fantasies to himself and the audience. When Valdes and Cornelius enter, Faustus shifts his mode of address to address them instead of himself.

The subject matter always remains at least somewhat focused on the occult. Faustus' tone is never particularly obsequious, and it starts out as whimsical rather than defiant or angry.

Example Question #1 : Excerpt Purpose In Context

Adapted from “Solitary Death, make me thine own” in Underneath the Bough: A Book of Verses by Michael Field (pseudonym of Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper) (1893)

 

Solitary Death, make me thine own,

And let us wander the bare fields together;

          Yea, thou and I alone

Roving in unembittered unison forever.

 

I will not harry thy treasure-graves,

I do not ask thy still hands a lover;

            My heart within me craves

To travel till we twain Time’s wilderness discover.

 

To sojourn with thee my soul was bred,

And I, the courtly sights of life refusing,

            To the wide shadows fled,

And mused upon thee often as I fell a-musing.

 

Escaped from chaos, thy mother Night,

In her maiden breast a burthen that awed her,

           By cavern waters white

Drew thee her first-born, her unfathered off-spring toward her.

 

On dewey plats, near twilight dingle,

She oft, to still thee from men’s sobs and curses

           In thine ears a-tingle,

Pours her cool charms, her weird, reviving chaunt rehearses.

 

Though mortals menace thee or elude,

And from thy confines break in swift transgression.

            Thou for thyself art sued

Of me, I claim thy cloudy purlieus my possession.

 

To a long freshwater, where the sea

Stirs the silver flux of the reeds and willows,

            Come thou, and beckon me

To lie in the lull of the sand-sequestered billows:

 

Then take the life I have called my own

And to the liquid universe deliver;

            Loosening my spirit’s zone,

Wrap round me as thy limbs the wind, the light, the river.

In context, the use of the underlined and bolded phrase “have called” in the last stanza serves which of the following purposes?

Possible Answers:

The use of “have called” suggests that the speaker has been deceptive in the past, and alerts the reader, for the first time, that the speaker may be unreliable in his or her statements.

In reference to “this life,” the “have called my own” construction suggests that the speaker is not ready to die, and actively resents death’s power to override his or her will.

The use of “have called” in reference to “this life” suggests that the speaker is, in fact, dead, and that the poem is addressed from beyond the grave.

The use of “have called” in reference to “this life” reveals that the speaker is actually speaking on behalf of Death, not to it. This revelation functions as the climax of the poem.

In reference to “this life,” the “have called my own” construction suggests that the speaker’s sense of a rigid, personally defined self is illusory in the face a fluid and “liquid universe.”

Correct answer:

In reference to “this life,” the “have called my own” construction suggests that the speaker’s sense of a rigid, personally defined self is illusory in the face a fluid and “liquid universe.”

Explanation:

The key word in this construction is “called”, by saying that he or she has merely “called” his or her life his or her own the speaker is suggesting that this is not, in fact, the case. This rigidly defined sense of self is overridden by the poem's focus on the abstract aspects of death, and the “liquid universe.”

The use of “called” calls into question only the speaker’s accuracy in having “called this life [his or her] own”, not his or her reliability as a speaker in the poem overall; it does not suggest that he or she is already dead, nor does it call into question Death’s power to end his or her life. 

Example Question #85 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from Frankenstein by Mary Shelly (1818)

Shutting the door, [the monster] approached me and said in a smothered voice, "You have destroyed the work which you began; what is it that you intend? Do you dare to break your promise? I have endured toil and misery; I left Switzerland with you; I crept along the shores of the Rhine, among its willow islands and over the summits of its hills. I have dwelt many months in the heaths of England and among the deserts of Scotland. I have endured incalculable fatigue, and cold, and hunger; do you dare destroy my hopes?"

"Begone! I do break my promise; never will I create another like yourself, equal in deformity and wickedness."

"Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourself unworthy of my condescension. Remember that I have power; you believe yourself miserable, but I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you. You are my creator, but I am your master; obey!"

"The hour of my irresolution is past, and the period of your power is arrived. Your threats cannot move me to do an act of wickedness, but they confirm me in a determination of not creating you a companion in vice. Shall I, in cool blood, set loose upon the earth a daemon whose delight is in death and wretchedness? Begone! I am firm, and your words will only exasperate my rage."

The monster saw my determination in my face and gnashed his teeth in the impotence of anger. "Shall each man," cried he, "find a wife for his bosom, and each beast have his mate, and I be alone? I had feelings of affection, and they were requited by detestation and scorn. Man! You may hate, but beware! Your hours will pass in dread and misery, and soon the bolt will fall which must ravish from you your happiness forever. Are you to be happy while I grovel in the intensity of my wretchedness? You can blast my other passions, but revenge remains—revenge, henceforth dearer than light or food! I may die, but first you, my tyrant and tormentor, shall curse the sun that gazes on your misery. Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful. I will watch with the wiliness of a snake, that I may sting with its venom. Man, you shall repent of the injuries you inflict."

"Devil, cease; and do not poison the air with these sounds of malice. I have declared my resolution to you, and I am no coward to bend beneath words. Leave me; I am inexorable."

"It is well. I go; but remember, I shall be with you on your wedding night."

I started forward and exclaimed, "Villain! Before you sign my death-warrant, be sure that you are yourself safe."

I would have seized him, but he eluded me and quit the house with precipitation. In a few moments I saw him in his boat, which shot across the waters with an arrowy swiftness and was soon lost amidst the waves.

All was again silent, but his words rang in my ears. I burned with rage to pursue the murderer of my peace and precipitate him into the ocean. I walked up and down my room hastily and perturbed, while my imagination conjured up a thousand images to torment and sting me. Why had I not followed him and closed with him in mortal strife? But I had suffered him to depart, and he had directed his course towards the mainland. I shuddered to think who might be the next victim sacrificed to his insatiate revenge. And then I thought again of his words—"I WILL BE WITH YOU ON YOUR WEDDING NIGHT." That, then, was the period fixed for the fulfillment of my destiny. In that hour I should die and at once satisfy and extinguish his malice. The prospect did not move me to fear; yet when I thought of my beloved Elizabeth, of her tears and endless sorrow, when she should find her lover so barbarously snatched from her, tears, the first I had shed for many months, streamed from my eyes, and I resolved not to fall before my enemy without a bitter struggle.

What is the purpose of the underlined remark made by the monster?

Possible Answers:

To overcome a bias directed against him and other monsters

To emphasize the power that he now has

To frighten Dr. Frankenstein

To show disdain for Dr. Frankenstein

To register a complaint about the world's view of his situation

Correct answer:

To emphasize the power that he now has

Explanation:

Certainly, the monster makes the remark to Dr. Frankenstein in order to increase the fright of the situation and maintain his control over his maker; however, in this sentence, the most direct reason for making this comment is to emphasize the kind of power that the monster has. Yes, Dr. Frankenstein already believes himself to be miserable because of the monster. However, the monster wants him to remember that he can do more than merely make him miserable—he can make Dr. Frankenstein "so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you."

Example Question #4 : Support And Evidence: Prose

Adapted from Frankenstein by Mary Shelly (1818)

Shutting the door, [the monster] approached me and said in a smothered voice, "You have destroyed the work which you began; what is it that you intend? Do you dare to break your promise? I have endured toil and misery; I left Switzerland with you; I crept along the shores of the Rhine, among its willow islands and over the summits of its hills. I have dwelt many months in the heaths of England and among the deserts of Scotland. I have endured incalculable fatigue, and cold, and hunger; do you dare destroy my hopes?"

"Begone! I do break my promise; never will I create another like yourself, equal in deformity and wickedness."

"Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourself unworthy of my condescension. Remember that I have power; you believe yourself miserable, but I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you. You are my creator, but I am your master; obey!"

"The hour of my irresolution is past, and the period of your power is arrived. Your threats cannot move me to do an act of wickedness, but they confirm me in a determination of not creating you a companion in vice. Shall I, in cool blood, set loose upon the earth a daemon whose delight is in death and wretchedness? Begone! I am firm, and your words will only exasperate my rage."

The monster saw my determination in my face and gnashed his teeth in the impotence of anger. "Shall each man," cried he, "find a wife for his bosom, and each beast have his mate, and I be alone? I had feelings of affection, and they were requited by detestation and scorn. Man! You may hate, but beware! Your hours will pass in dread and misery, and soon the bolt will fall which must ravish from you your happiness forever. Are you to be happy while I grovel in the intensity of my wretchedness? You can blast my other passions, but revenge remains—revenge, henceforth dearer than light or food! I may die, but first you, my tyrant and tormentor, shall curse the sun that gazes on your misery. Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful. I will watch with the wiliness of a snake, that I may sting with its venom. Man, you shall repent of the injuries you inflict."

"Devil, cease; and do not poison the air with these sounds of malice. I have declared my resolution to you, and I am no coward to bend beneath words. Leave me; I am inexorable."

"It is well. I go; but remember, I shall be with you on your wedding night."

I started forward and exclaimed, "Villain! Before you sign my death-warrant, be sure that you are yourself safe."

I would have seized him, but he eluded me and quit the house with precipitation. In a few moments I saw him in his boat, which shot across the waters with an arrowy swiftness and was soon lost amidst the waves.

All was again silent, but his words rang in my ears. I burned with rage to pursue the murderer of my peace and precipitate him into the ocean. I walked up and down my room hastily and perturbed, while my imagination conjured up a thousand images to torment and sting me. Why had I not followed him and closed with him in mortal strife? But I had suffered him to depart, and he had directed his course towards the mainland. I shuddered to think who might be the next victim sacrificed to his insatiate revenge. And then I thought again of his words—"I WILL BE WITH YOU ON YOUR WEDDING NIGHT." That, then, was the period fixed for the fulfillment of my destiny. In that hour I should die and at once satisfy and extinguish his malice. The prospect did not move me to fear; yet when I thought of my beloved Elizabeth, of her tears and endless sorrow, when she should find her lover so barbarously snatched from her, tears, the first I had shed for many months, streamed from my eyes, and I resolved not to fall before my enemy without a bitter struggle.

Why does the monster state the facts found in the underlined selection?

Possible Answers:

In order to make quite clear that he has good reason for being exhausted

In order to buttress the claim for the justice of his desires

In order to emphasize his servility to Dr. Frankenstein

In order to list the many adventures they had together

In order to preach about the inequality of circumstances afforded to monsters in his society

Correct answer:

In order to buttress the claim for the justice of his desires

Explanation:

Out of the whole underlined passage, the clearest clue for this question is found in the monster's remarks, "I have endured incalculable fatigue, and cold, and hunger; do you dare destroy my hopes?" He has done much with Dr. Frankenstein, and feels that he should have a bride created for him. (This can be inferred from elsewhere in this passage.) He lists all of the many things that they have done in order to make a claim for the justice of what he desires. Since he has endured all of these things, it is implied to be an injustice to "destroy [his] hopes".

Example Question #86 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from Hamlet by William Shakespeare, III.i.56-89 (1874 ed., Clark and Wright)

Hamlet: "To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause: there's the respect 

That makes calamity of so long life;

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

The oppressor's wrongs, the proud mans' contumely,

The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns 

That patient merit of the unowrthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscover'd country from whose bourn 

No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have 

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry,

And lose the name of action. Soft you now!

The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons

Be all my sins remember'd."

The underlined selection containing “ay, there’s the rub” has what effect on the previous sentence of the passage?

Possible Answers:

Transitions to a different theme

Supports it

Contradicts it 

Introduces a contrasting metaphor

Presents a complication

Correct answer:

Presents a complication

Explanation:

The best answer is "presents a complication." Hamlet is considering suicide, and indeed sees that as the best answer to life’s troubles—until he considers the fear of the unknown. In that sense, it does not support his previous interest in suicide. It does not contradict it directly, but “gives us pause” in our logical progression. The theme, "to be or not to be," does not change. The metaphor is further elaborated, but it is still a metaphor comparing sleep to death.

Example Question #87 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from King Henry V by William Shakespeare (III.i.1092-1125)

 

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;

Or close the wall up with our English dead.

In peace there's nothing so becomes a man

As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,

Then imitate the action of the tiger;

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,

Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;

Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;

Let pry through the portage of the head

Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it

As fearfully as doth a galled rock

O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,

Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.

Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,

Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit

To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.

Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!

Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,

Have in these parts from morn till even fought

And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:

Dishonour not your mothers; now attest

That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.

Be copy now to men of grosser blood,

And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,

Whose limbs were made in England, show us here

The mettle of your pasture; let us swear

That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;

For there is none of you so mean and base,

That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,

Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:

Follow your spirit, and upon this charge

Cry "God for Harry, England, and Saint George!"

The phrase "grosser blood" most likely is meant to signify what?

Possible Answers:

A fearful mentality

Typical fighting strength

Common birth

A sickly constitution

Poor manners

Correct answer:

Common birth

Explanation:

Henry urges his soldiers to "be copy now to men of grosser blood," meaning to be an example to them. "Blood" in this time people could mean the relative social level of one's birth, and those of higher birth were considered more noble on the battlefield. So, Henry wants his noble-born soldiers to be examples to those of lower birth who are also fighting.

Example Question #2 : Excerpt Purpose In Context

Adapted from "Sonnet 73" by William Shakespeare

 

That time of year thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou seest the twilight of such day 

As after sunset fadeth in the west,

Which by and by black night doth take away,

Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the death-bed whereon it must expire

Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.

This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

The speaker’s mention of “Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang” (line 4) serves primarily to do what?

Possible Answers:

To demonstrate the deterioration of the speaker’s confidence

To bemoan the addressee’s loss of innocence

To place the birdsong in a physical location

To illustrate the speaker’s aging by way of a metaphor

To support the speaker’s hesitance to embrace summer

Correct answer:

To illustrate the speaker’s aging by way of a metaphor

Explanation:

The speaker’s mention of “Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang” (line 4) serves primarily to illustrate the speaker’s aging by way of a metaphor. Throughout the poem, the speaker uses winter as a metaphor for old age; the “Bare ruin’d choirs” refer to the branches of a tree which was once, in the summer, home to singing birds, but which is now barren in winter. The speaker’s confidence is not at stake, nor is his addressee’s innocence. 

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