SAT II Literature : Context, Speaker, and Addressee: Drama

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Context, Speaker, And Addressee: Drama

1 Two households, both alike in dignity,
  In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
  From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
  Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
5 From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
  A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
  Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
  Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
9 The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
  And the continuance of their parents' rage,
  Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
  Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
13 The which if you with patient ears attend,
     What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

(1595)

Whom is the speaker addressing in this passage?  

Possible Answers:

Herself/himself

The audience of the play

His or her fellow actors

The people of Verona

The "star-cross'd lovers" (line 6)

Correct answer:

The audience of the play

Explanation:

The last two lines make it clear that the speaker is addressing his audience: "The which if you with patient ears attend, / What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend" (lines 13-14). "You" refers to the people listening--listening with "patient ears" (line 13). Furthermore, line 12 makes it clear that the plot summary of lines 1-11 comes in the context of a play that is about to be performed; the mention of a "stage" is a key to knowing it is a play, in addition to "two-hours' traffic," since that is about how long plays tend to be (line 12). Thanks to these contextual clues, it is possible to determine that the speaker is indeed addressing the audience of the play.

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1595).

Example Question #2 : Context, Speaker, And Addressee: Drama

HENRY V: And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember'd;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he today that sheds his blood with me   (5)

Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks   (10)

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

(1600)

According to the passage, what will happen on “Crispin Crispian” (line 1, e.g. St. Crispin’s Day)?

Possible Answers:

The company of soldiers will be remembered

The enemy will be fearful

The company of soldiers will be killed

The English gentlemen will join the fight against the enemy

Vile men will be made gentle

Correct answer:

The company of soldiers will be remembered

Explanation:

Lines 2-3 give us the answer to this question. “From this day to the ending of the world, / But we in it shall be remember'd” means that on the annual celebration of St. Crispin’s Day the soldiers will be remembered. The implication, of course, is that they will be remembered in a positive light for their heroism.

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare’s Henry V (1600)

Example Question #3 : Context, Speaker, And Addressee: Drama

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.

What is the speaker's primary purpose in making this speech?

Possible Answers:

To announce his departure from the city, and to curse those who banished him

To deride the unsanitary conditions of the city

To announce his intent to invade a foreign nation

To warn of an incoming invasion

To curse his enemies and banish them from the city

Correct answer:

To announce his departure from the city, and to curse those who banished him

Explanation:

The main purpose of the speech is to announce is his departure, and to curse those who banished him. His "banishing" of the listeners is a metaphorical banishment to uncertainty and a lack of safety after he leaves, evidenced by his statement "I banish you;/ And here remain with your uncertainty."

"Have the power still/ to banish your defenders" reveals explicitly that the speaker is the one being banished, and "For you, the city, thus I turn my back: There is a world elsewhere" announces his intention to leave.

Example Question #2 : Extrapolating From The Passage

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.

The speaker's tone could best be described as __________.

Possible Answers:

defeated and forlorn

angry and disgruntled

alarmed and upset

disbelieving and saddened

complimentary and obsequious

Correct answer:

angry and disgruntled

Explanation:

The best description of the speaker's tone is "angry and disgruntled." His cursing and aggressive insulting of the listeners show his anger. His resentment of his banishment reveals him to be specifically disgruntled with what has been done to him.

He is in no way complimentary, he does not express disbelief or sadness at the banishment, only anger, and his tone is more aggressive than it is alarmed.

Example Question #2 : Inferences And Implied Ideas

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.

What does the passage imply about the speaker's relationship to his addressees?

Possible Answers:

The speaker has always been an avowed enemy of the city.

The speaker has a longstanding positive relationship with his addressees.

The speaker is now, and has always been, extremely concerned about his addresses' future welfare.

The speaker's power within the city is equal to that of his addressees'.

The speaker has been charged with protecting them, but has fallen out of favor.

Correct answer:

The speaker has been charged with protecting them, but has fallen out of favor.

Explanation:

The speaker has in the past been charged with protecting the city; this is implied by his references to them being vulnerable in his absence. He has also fallen out of favor; this is made clear by the fact that he has been banished.

The speaker's power is obviously not equal to his addressees' because they have the power to banish him. He does not seem concerned about their welfare since his is cursing them and wishing them ill. His implication that they will be vulnerable without him implies that he has been helping the city rather than being its avowed enemy. His vitriol in addressing his listeners implies that their relationship has not been particularly positive.

Example Question #3 : Extrapolating From The Passage

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.

Which of the following most accurately conveys the meaning of the underlined section, "Despising, / For you, the city, thus I turn my back: / There is a world elsewhere"?

Possible Answers:

The speaker, partially out of his hatred for listeners and partially out of his own desire to live in a cleaner, more prosperous city, has decided to leave.

The speaker, partially out of his hatred for his listeners and partially in acquiescence to their request, has decided to leave the city, and is no longer loyal to its citizens or government.

The speaker, partially out of shame for his own actions and partially in acquiescence to his listeners' request, has decided to leave the city and explore foreign lands.

The speaker is leaving the city, and on his way out is informing his listeners that he has betrayed them, and will now be working with the foreign invaders he described earlier in the passage.

The speaker is leaving the city, and on his way out, is apologizing to his listeners and expressing his self-loathing.

Correct answer:

The speaker, partially out of his hatred for his listeners and partially in acquiescence to their request, has decided to leave the city, and is no longer loyal to its citizens or government.

Explanation:

The speaker, partially out of his hatred for his listeners and partially in acquiescence to their request, has decided to leave the city, and is no longer loyal to its citizens or government. In the underlined passage, the speaker is emphasizing both that he is deciding to leave of his own accord, and has also been banished by his "despise[d]" listeners (in his opinion, foolishly). His decision to "turn his back" is both literal and metaphorical, as he is physically leaving the city and discarding his loyalty to his "despised" banishers.

In the indicated excerpt, he does not express any shame about his actions, nor does he reference a direct, literal betrayal; the earlier description of foreign invaders was hypothetical. While he references "corrupt" air and smells earlier in the passage, it is hardly his main grievance. His "despising" is outwardly directed towards his listeners, and he is hardly apologetic.

Example Question #4 : Context, Speaker, And Addressee: Drama

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.

According to the speaker, what is his main motivation for leaving the city?

Possible Answers:

His hatred of those who banished him

His desire to meet new people

His having been banished

His need to free prisoners of war being held abroad

His fear of a foreign invasion

Correct answer:

His hatred of those who banished him

Explanation:

The speaker frames his desire to leave as primarily derived from his hatred of the people who banished him.

The key phrase in the question is "According to the speaker." While his being banished could possibly be the biggest factor in his leaving, in his speech the speaker frames his decision to leave as his accepting the banishment, and himself banishing the people left in the city to uncertainty and fear in his absence. This implies that his own motivation was more important than the externally imposed banishment.

He refers often to a hypothetical foreign invasion after he leaves, but does not express fear about it. He does not mention meeting new people, nor going abroad to help prisoners of war; rather, he claims that after he leaves the listeners will become prisoners.

Example Question #5 : Context, Speaker, And Addressee: Drama

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)

 

FAUSTUS: 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.

What is main difference in content between the first half of the passage, before the arrival of Valdes and Cornelius, and the second, after their arrival?

Possible Answers:

Before their arrival, Faustus dreams about what occult powers might allow him to do; after their arrival, he complains about his current station in life, and begs for their help in escaping Wittenberg.

Before their arrival, Faustus weighs the consequences of his decision; after their arrival, he asks Valdes and Cornelius for their help in gaining occult powers.

Before their arrival, Faustus fantasizes about the earthly pleasures he will gain from his occult powers; after their arrival, he justifies his fascination with the occult in intellectual terms.

Before their arrival, Faustus justifies his decision to himself in academic terms; after their arrival, he explains it in more practical, financially oriented terms.

Before their arrival, Faustus considers a trip to a foreign land; after their arrival, he decides to stay and use his powers for the good of science.

Correct answer:

Before their arrival, Faustus fantasizes about the earthly pleasures he will gain from his occult powers; after their arrival, he justifies his fascination with the occult in intellectual terms.

Explanation:

Before Valdes and Cornelius' arrival, Faustus fantasizes about the earthly pleasures he will gain from his occult powers; after their arrival, he justifies his fascination with the occult in intellectual terms. The first section of the speech is focused almost exclusively on "pleasant fruits and princely delicates," and other luxuries like "silk." It is only after the arrival of Valdes and Cornelius that Faustus begins to discuss his dissatisfaction with conventional academics in favor of the "concealed arts."

It is difficult to characterize Faustus' tone as "begging" at any point. While he fantasizes about traveling, he never makes a plan and thus does not reverse it and decide to stay in Wittenberg.

Example Question #6 : Context, Speaker, And Addressee: Drama

PROSPERO:

  1.     Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves,
  2.     And ye that on the sands with printless foot
  3.     Do chase the ebbing Neptune and do fly him
  4.     When he comes back; you demi-puppets that
  5.     By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,
  6.     Whereof the ewe not bites, and you whose pastime
  7.     Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice
  8.     To hear the solemn curfew; by whose aid,
  9.     Weak masters though ye be, I have bedimm'd
  10.     The noontide sun, call'd forth the mutinous winds,
  11.     And 'twixt the green sea and the azured vault
  12.     Set roaring war: to the dread rattling thunder
  13.     Have I given fire and rifted Jove's stout oak
  14.     With his own bolt; the strong-based promontory
  15.     Have I made shake and by the spurs pluck'd up
  16.     The pine and cedar: graves at my command
  17.     Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let 'em forth
  18.     By my so potent art. But this rough magic
  19.     I here abjure, and, when I have required
  20.     Some heavenly music, which even now I do,
  21.     To work mine end upon their senses that
  22.     This airy charm is for, I'll break my staff,
  23.     Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
  24.     And deeper than did ever plummet sound
  25.     I'll drown my book.

Prospero is most likely speaking to _________________.

Possible Answers:

the audience

magical spirits

his daughter

the dead

birds and animals

Correct answer:

magical spirits

Explanation:

Prospero the magician tells us right away who he’s addressing: “Ye elves… demi-puppets…” of various types associated with different places in nature. They seem to be supernatural spirits who have been giving Prospero help with his magic (line 8-9.) We can be pretty sure they’re incorporeal, because they can run over sand without leaving footprints (lines 2-3.) We hear that some of them (at least) “rejoice/ To hear the solemn curfew”: that is, they’re happy when night falls because then they can come out and play their tricks.

Though Prospero mentions raising the dead, he is not speaking to them here. Nor is he addressing the audience directly (as he does in the epilogue to the play.) There is no mention of birds or animals in this speech. Prospero is not talking to his daughter.

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare's The Tempest (1611)

Example Question #7 : Context, Speaker, And Addressee: Drama

Then, I confess,
Here on my knee, before high heaven and you 
That before you, and next unto high heaven, 
I love your son. 
My friends were poor, but honest; so's my love: 
Be not offended, for it hurts not him 
That he is lov'd of me: I follow him not 
By any token of presumptuous suit; 
Nor would I have him till I do deserve him; 
Yet never know how that desert should be. 
I know I love in vain, strive against hope; 
Yet, in this captious and intenible sieve 
I still pour in the waters of my love, 
And lack not to lose still. Thus, Indian-like, 
Religious in mine error, I adore 
The sun, that looks upon his worshipper, 
But knows of him no more. My dearest madam, 
Let not your hate encounter with my love 
For loving where you do: but, if yourself, 
Whose aged honour cites a virtuous youth, 
Did ever in so true a flame of liking 
Wish chastely and love dearly, that your Dian 
Was both herself and Love; O! then, give pity 
To her, whose state is such that cannot choose 
But lend and give where she is sure to lose; 
That seeks not to find that her search implies, 
But, riddle-like, lives sweetly where she dies.

(1605)

In the given passage, who is the speaker most likely addressing?

Possible Answers:

The mother of the man she loves

Her mother 

Her former lover 

The man she loves 

God 

Correct answer:

The mother of the man she loves

Explanation:

Without any background knowledge of the play All's Well That Ends Well, we can still infer that the speaker is addressing the mother of the man who she loves. The lines that help us to infer this include "I love your son," which lead us to know that the speaker is addressing either both or one of his parents, and we can then note that the speaker later calls the addressee "my dearest madam" which lets us know that the speaker is addressing a female parent, which would be the mother of the man who she loves.

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare's All's Well that Ends Well (1605)

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