Common Core: 7th Grade English Language Arts : Analyze How the Form of Drama or Poetry Creates Meaning: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.7.5

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Analyze How The Form Of Drama Or Poetry Creates Meaning: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Rl.7.5

"Sonnet 18" by William Shakespeare

1        Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
2        Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
3        Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
4        And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
5        Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
6        And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
7        And every fair from fair sometime declines,
8        By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
9        But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
10      Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
11      Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
12      When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
13      So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
14      So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Many sonnets contain a “volta.” "Volta" means turn in Italian, and a volta is a turn from one major train of thought or idea to another. This sonnet contains such a switch in train of thought. In which of the following lines does the narrator focus on a brand-new train of thought that is different from the train of thought of the lines leading up to it?

Possible Answers:

“And every fair from fair sometime declines,” (Line 7)

“But thy eternal summer shall not fade,” (Line 9)

“Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,” (Line 11)

“By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:” (Line 8)

“Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,” (Line 5)

Correct answer:

“But thy eternal summer shall not fade,” (Line 9)

Explanation:

Let's start by reading the first part of the poem and seeing where the poet decides to veer to address another topic midway through the poem. In Line 1, the speaker begins by asking if he should compare someone to a summer's day. In Line 2, he decides that the person he is addressing is better than a summer's day. Lines 3–8 tell us various flaws in "a summer's day," making the poem's addressee look much better in comparison. There's no veer toward a different train of thought in these first eight lines. But consider the shift from Line 8 to Line 9:

7        And every fair from fair sometime declines,
8        By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
9        But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

That's certainly a shift! The author stops focusing on the comparison between the summer's day's negative aspects and instead starts considering the addressee directly. The poem shifts from discussing nature to discussing life and death. Based on this evidence, we can correctly state that the "volta" of the poem occurs between lines 8 and 9. (This is actually the expected location of the volta in Shakespearean sonnets. The next time you read one, see if it includes a dramatic turn between its eighth and ninth lines!)

All Common Core: 7th Grade English Language Arts Resources

1 Diagnostic Test 27 Practice Tests Question of the Day Flashcards Learn by Concept
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