GRE Subject Test: Literature in English : Contexts of British Poetry 1660–1925

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All GRE Subject Test: Literature in English Resources

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Contexts Of British Poetry 1660–1925

Oh, weep for Adonais! The quick Dreams,
       The passion-winged Ministers of thought,
       Who were his flocks, whom near the living streams
       Of his young spirit he fed, and whom he taught
       The love which was its music, wander not—
       Wander no more, from kindling brain to brain,
       But droop there, whence they sprung; and mourn their lot
       Round the cold heart, where, after their sweet pain,
They ne'er will gather strength, or find a home again.

This subject of this poem is __________.

Possible Answers:

Lord Byron

John Keats

William Wordsworth

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

John Milton

Correct answer:

John Keats

Explanation:

This poem is an elegy for the Romantic poet John Keats, who died at age 26 of tuberculosis.  Keats was one of the leading figures of the second generation of Romatic poets.

Passage adapted from Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats by Percy Bysshe Shelley, I.1-9 (1821)

Example Question #14 : Cultural And Historical Contexts

The author of the poem "Leda and the Swan" founded Dublin's Abbey Theatre along with whom?

Possible Answers:

Sean O'Casey

James Joyce

Lady Augusta Gregory

Samuel Beckett

George Bernard Shaw

Correct answer:

Lady Augusta Gregory

Explanation:

Dublin's Abbey Theatre opened in 1904 and is closely associated with the Irish Literary Revival. Key figures associated with the theatre include John Millington Synge and Sean O'Casey, but the actual founders were W. B. Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory.

Example Question #2 : Contexts Of British Poetry 1660–1925

The woman described in W. B. Yeats' poem "Leda and the Swan" is the mother of __________.

Possible Answers:

Achilles

Agamemnon

Clytemnestra

Paris

Electra

Correct answer:

Clytemnestra

Explanation:

Yeats' "Leda and the Swan" is a retelling of a Greek myth in which a Greek queen named Leda is raped by the god Zeus, who has taken the form of a swan. After the rape, Leda produces four offspring, two of whom are the children of Zeus and two of whom are the children of her husband. In the traditional myth, one of the offspring not fathered by Zeus is Agamemnon's future wife Clytemnestra, who later conspires with her lover Aegisthus to kill her husband.

Example Question #3 : Contexts Of British Poetry 1660–1925

What dire offence from am'rous causes springs,
What mighty contests rise from trivial things,
I sing — This verse to Caryl, Muse! is due:
This, ev'n Belinda may vouchsafe to view:
Slight is the subject, but not so the praise,
If She inspire, and He approve my lays.

Say what strange motive, Goddess! could compel
A well-bred Lord t' assault a gentle Belle?
O say what stranger cause, yet unexplor'd,
Could make a gentle Belle reject a Lord?
In tasks so bold, can little men engage,
And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty Rage?

During what decade was this poem published?

Possible Answers:

1660s

1610s

1810s

1760s

1710s

Correct answer:

1710s

Explanation:

The poem was originally published in 1712, and revised versions were released in 1714 and 1717. Even if you didn’t know this, you could rule out the other decades because none of them fall within Pope’s lifetime (1688-1744).

Passage adapted from Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock, I.1-12 (1712; ed. 1906)

Example Question #17 : Cultural And Historical Contexts

In pious times, e’r Priest-craft did begin,        

Before Polygamy was made a Sin;     

When Man on many multipli’d his kind,       

E’r one to one was cursedly confin’d,

When Nature prompted and no Law deni’d           

Promiscuous Use of Concubine and Bride;   

Then Israel’s Monarch, after Heavens own heart,       

His vigorous warmth did, variously, impart    

To Wives and Slaves: And, wide as his Command,    

Scatter’d his Maker’s Image through the Land.

Who is the author of this poem?

Possible Answers:

John Milton

Sir William Davenant

Thomas Shadwell

Edmund Spenser

John Dryden

Correct answer:

John Dryden

Explanation:

These are the opening lines of John Dryden’s political allegory Absalom and Achitophel, a book-length poem concerning the rebellion of Absalom against the Biblical King David.

Passage adapted from John Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel (1681)

Example Question #18 : Cultural And Historical Contexts

In pious times, e’r Priest-craft did begin,        

Before Polygamy was made a Sin;     

When Man on many multipli’d his kind,       

E’r one to one was cursedly confin’d,

When Nature prompted and no Law deni’d           

Promiscuous Use of Concubine and Bride;   

Then Israel’s Monarch, after Heavens own heart,       

His vigorous warmth did, variously, impart    

To Wives and Slaves: And, wide as his Command,    

Scatter’d his Maker’s Image through the Land.

This poet wrote during which major historical period?

Possible Answers:

the Interregnum

the Hundred Years’ War

the English Restoration

the Elizabethan era

the English Reformation

Correct answer:

the English Restoration

Explanation:

John Dryden lived from 1631 to 1700, and Absalom and Achitophel was written at the height of the English Restoration in 1681. The poem itself is an allegory for various Restoration-era events, including the Popish Plot and the Monmouth Rebellion.

Passage adapted from John Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel (1681)

Example Question #4 : Contexts Of British Poetry 1660–1925

In pious times, e’r Priest-craft did begin,        

Before Polygamy was made a Sin;     

When Man on many multipli’d his kind,       

E’r one to one was cursedly confin’d,

When Nature prompted and no Law deni’d           

Promiscuous Use of Concubine and Bride;   

Then Israel’s Monarch, after Heavens own heart,       

His vigorous warmth did, variously, impart    

To Wives and Slaves: And, wide as his Command,    

Scatter’d his Maker’s Image through the Land.

Which of the following was not a contemporary of the author of this passage?

Possible Answers:

Thomas Killigrew

William Wycherley

John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester

John Donne

Sir William Davenant

Correct answer:

John Donne

Explanation:

The epitome of a Restoration poet, Dryden lived from 1631 to 1700. Other Restoration poets included Sir William Davenant (1606-1668), Thomas Killigrew (1612-1683), William Wycherley (1640-1715), and John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (1647-1680). Only John Donne (1572-1631) was not a Restoration poet; instead, he is considered a leading metaphysical poet.

Passage adapted from John Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel (1681)

Example Question #5 : Contexts Of British Poetry 1660–1925

Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit    

Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste     

Brought death into the World, and all our woe,         

With loss of Eden, till one greater Man         

Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat

Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top           

Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire     

That Shepherd who first taught the chosen seed       

In the beginning how the heavens and earth  

Rose out of Chaos…

This poem is an allegory for which Biblical story?

Possible Answers:

the fall in the Garden of Eden

the creation of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai

the exile of the Jews in Egypt

the crucifixion of Jesus Christ

the birth of Jesus Christ

Correct answer:

the fall in the Garden of Eden

Explanation:

Paradise Lost retells the Biblical story of man’s fall, beginning with the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and continuing with their punishment and expulsion from the garden. The poem is particularly notable for humanizing Satan and for justifying God’s actions to readers.

Passage adapted from John Milton's Paradise Lost (1674)

Example Question #6 : Contexts Of British Poetry 1660–1925

Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit    

Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste     

Brought death into the World, and all our woe,         

With loss of Eden, till one greater Man         

Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat

Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top           

Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire     

That Shepherd who first taught the chosen seed       

In the beginning how the heavens and earth  

Rose out of Chaos…

Which of the following is not a character from this work?

Possible Answers:

Uriel

Mulciber

Moloch

Raphael

Mephistopheles

Correct answer:

Mephistopheles

Explanation:

Mephistopheles is a character from Goethe’s 1808 Faust (and in various other versions of the German story of Dr. Faustus). All of other the characters are angels or fallen angels in Paradise Lost.

Passage adapted from John Milton's Paradise Lost (1674)

Example Question #7 : Contexts Of British Poetry 1660–1925

Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit    

Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste     

Brought death into the World, and all our woe,         

With loss of Eden, till one greater Man         

Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat

Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top           

Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire     

That Shepherd who first taught the chosen seed       

In the beginning how the heavens and earth  

Rose out of Chaos…

When was this poem published?

Possible Answers:

1680s

1650s

1690s

1700s

1660s

Correct answer:

1660s

Explanation:

The poem was first published in 10 sections in 1667, although a revised 1674 edition would reorganize the work into the 12-section version studied today.

Passage adapted from John Milton's Paradise Lost (1674)

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