Common Core: 11th Grade English Language Arts : Context clues to determine word or phrase meaning: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.11-12.4.A

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Example Question #1 : Context Clues To Determine Word Or Phrase Meaning: Ccss.Ela Literacy.L.11 12.4.A

Passage adapted from Othello by William Shakespeare (1604)

 IAGO: Three great ones of the city,                                                  

In personal suit to make me his lieutenant,

Off-capp'd to him: and, by the faith of man,

I know my price, I am worth no worse a place:

But he; as loving his own pride and purposes,                   5

Evades them, with a bombast circumstance

Horribly stuff'd with epithets of war;

And, in conclusion,

Nonsuits my mediators; for, 'Certes,' says he,

'I have already chose my officer.'                                     10

And what was he?

Forsooth, a great arithmetician,

One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,

A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife;

That never set a squadron in the field,                            15

Nor the division of a battle knows

More than a spinster; unless the bookish theoric,

Wherein the toga’d consuls can propose

As masterly as he: mere prattle, without practise,

Is all his soldiership. But he, sir, had the election:            20

And I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof

At Rhodes, at Cyprus and on other grounds

Christian and heathen, must be be-lee'd and calm'd

By debitor and creditor: this counter-caster,

He, in good time, must his lieutenant be,                        25

And I—God bless the mark!—his Moorship's ancient.

In the context of the passage, what is the meaning of the highlighted section of the passage (line 4)?

Possible Answers:

Iago believes that he is deserving of at least the rank of lieutenant

Iago believes that Cassio is not deserving of his current rank

Iago knows his own value and understands that he is not yet deserving of the rank of lieutenant

Iago knows how much soldiers of his experience are paid and believes that he is underpaid

Correct answer:

Iago believes that he is deserving of at least the rank of lieutenant

Explanation:

To answer this question, you must have a command of both the overall tone and meaning of the passage, as well as an acute understanding of the syntax of the exact highlighted phrase. The first clause, "I know my price" is quite clear. Iago is the speaker, he is clearly using the first person, and setting the focus of this sentence as his own worth. So, while it it certainly true that Iago does not believe that Cassio is deserving of his current rank of lieutenant, that is not the meaning of the specified text of this question. Clearly, Iago is fairly confident, he brags about his exploits as a soldier, and makes no reference to not being deserving of anything, really.

"No worse a place" can be paraphrased as "I am worthy of at least," the "place" Iago believes himself to be worthy of is clearly the rank of lieutenant that Michael Cassio currently occupies. Money less at issue in this passage than is the military rank and status of "lieutenant" (like 2). Iago believes that he is deserving of at least the rank of lieutenant.

Example Question #2 : Context Clues To Determine Word Or Phrase Meaning: Ccss.Ela Literacy.L.11 12.4.A

Adapted from “Federalist No.19” in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison (1788)

Among the confederacies of antiquity, the most considerable was that of the Grecian republics, associated under the Amphictyonic council. From the best accounts transmitted of this celebrated institution, it bore a very instructive analogy to the present Confederation of the American States. The members retained the character of independent and sovereign states, and had equal votes in the federal council. This council had a general authority to propose and resolve whatever it judged necessary for the common welfare of Greece; to declare and carry on war; to decide, in the last resort, all controversies between the members; to fine the aggressing party; to employ the whole force of the confederacy against the disobedient; and to admit new members.

The Amphictyons were the guardians of religion, and of the immense riches belonging to the temple of Delphos, where they had the right of jurisdiction in controversies between the inhabitants and those who came to consult the oracle. As a further provision for the efficacy of the federal powers, they took an oath mutually to defend and protect the united cities, to punish the violators of this oath, and to inflict vengeance on sacrilegious despoilers of the temple.

In theory, and upon paper, this apparatus of powers seems amply sufficient for all general purposes. In several material instances, they exceed the powers enumerated in the Articles of Confederation. The Amphictyons had in their hands the superstition of the times, one of the principal engines by which government was then maintained; they had a declared authority to use coercion against refractory cities, and were bound by oath to exert this authority on the necessary occasions.

Very different, nevertheless, was the experiment from the theory. The powers, like those of the present Congress, were administered by deputies appointed wholly by the cities in their political capacities, and exercised over them in the same capacities. Hence the weakness, the disorders, and finally the destruction of the confederacy. The more powerful members, instead of being kept in awe and subordination, tyrannized successively over all the rest. Athens, as we learn from Demosthenes, was the arbiter of Greece seventy-three years. The Lacedaemonians next governed it twenty-nine years; at a subsequent period, after the battle of Leuctra, the Thebans had their turn of domination. It happened but too often, according to Plutarch, that the deputies of the strongest cities awed and corrupted those of the weaker; and that judgment went in favor of the most powerful party. Even in the midst of defensive and dangerous wars with Persia and Macedon, the members never acted in concert, and were, more or fewer of them, eternally the dupes or the hirelings of the common enemy. The intervals of foreign war were filled up by domestic vicissitudes, convulsions, and carnage.

After the conclusion of the war with Xerxes, it appears that the Lacedaemonians required that a number of the cities should be turned out of the confederacy for the unfaithful part they had acted. The Athenians, finding that the Lacedaemonians would lose fewer partisans by such a measure than themselves, and would become masters of the public deliberations, vigorously opposed and defeated the attempt. This piece of history proves at once the inefficiency of the union, the ambition and jealousy of its most powerful members, and the dependent and degraded condition of the rest. The smaller members, though entitled by the theory of their system to revolve in equal pride and majesty around the common center, had become, in fact, satellites of the orbs of primary magnitude.

Had the Greeks, says the Abbe Milot, been as wise as they were courageous, they would have been admonished by experience of the necessity of a closer union, and would have availed themselves of the peace which followed their success against the Persian arms to establish such a reformation. Instead of this obvious policy, Athens and Sparta, inflated with the victories and the glory they had acquired, became first rivals and then enemies, and did each other infinitely more mischief than they had suffered from Xerxes. Their mutual jealousies, fears, hatreds, and injuries ended in the celebrated Peloponnesian war, which itself ended in the ruin and slavery of the Athenians who had begun it.

The bolded and underlined word “refractory” in the second paragraph most nearly means _________________.

Possible Answers:

obedient

disobedient

reputable

heretical

Correct answer:

disobedient

Explanation:

In context, the word is used to describe the types of cities against which the Amphictyons had been given authority to use force. The author says “The Amphictyons had in their hands the superstition of the times, one of the principal engines by which government was then maintained; they had a declared authority to use coercion against refractory cities, and were bound by oath to exert this authority on the necessary occasions.” Because the confederacy gave its support to the use of coercion, it stands to reason that these “refractory” cities must have been "disobedient" or wayward.

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