SAT II Literature : Effect of Specified Text: Drama

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Effect Of Specified Text: Drama

And when, after a long while, this storm had passed, the maid was seen; and she cried aloud with the sharp cry of a bird in its bitterness,-even as when, within the empty nest, it sees the bed stripped of its nestlings. So she also, when she saw the corpse bare, lifted up a voice of wailing, and called down curses on the doers of that deed.

(Fifth century BCE)

In the passage, the author uses a submerged simile to compare the maid to a suffering bird in order to __________.

Possible Answers:

help describe the girl's regret that all her work had amounted to nothing

help describe the girl's surprise at not being able to save the life of a loved one

help describe the girl's dismay at the destruction of nature

help describe the maid's anguish upon returning to find her work undone

help describe the girl's fear of death

Correct answer:

help describe the maid's anguish upon returning to find her work undone

Explanation:

The bird is "crying bitterly" at returning to its nest to find it stripped, just as the maid is upset at returning to find the bare corpse (her work undone).

(Adapted from the R. C. Jebb translation of Antigone by Sophocles 462-469, Fifth century BCE)

Example Question #2 : Effect Of Specified Text: Drama

Adapted from Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare, III.i.1126-1185 (1623)

Enter Judges, Senators and Tribunes, with MARTIUS and QUINTUS, bound, passing on to the place of execution; TITUS going before, pleading

Titus Andronicus: Hear me, grave fathers! noble tribunes, stay! 
For pity of mine age, whose youth was spent 
In dangerous wars, whilst you securely slept; 
For all my blood in Rome's great quarrel shed; 
For all the frosty nights that I have watch'd;
And for these bitter tears, which now you see 
Filling the aged wrinkles in my cheeks; 
Be pitiful to my condemned sons, 
Whose souls are not corrupted as 'tis thought. 
For two and twenty sons I never wept, 
Because they died in honor's lofty bed. 
[Lieth down; the Judges, &c., pass by him, and Exeunt] 
For these, these, tribunes, in the dust I write 
My heart's deep languor and my soul's sad tears: 
Let my tears stanch the earth's dry appetite; 
My sons' sweet blood will make it shame and blush. 
O earth, I will befriend thee more with rain, 
That shall distill from these two ancient urns, 
Than youthful April shall with all his showers: 
In summer's drought I'll drop upon thee still; 
In winter with warm tears I'll melt the snow 
And keep eternal spring-time on thy face, 
So thou refuse to drink my dear sons' blood. 
[Enter LUCIUS, with his sword drawn] 
O reverend tribunes! O gentle, aged men! 
Unbind my sons, reverse the doom of death; 
And let me say, that never wept before, 
My tears are now prevailing orators.

Lucius: O noble father, you lament in vain: 
The tribunes hear you not; no man is by;
And you recount your sorrows to a stone.

Titus Andronicus: Ah, Lucius, for thy brothers let me plead. 
Grave tribunes, once more I entreat of you,—

Lucius: My gracious lord, no tribune hears you speak.

Titus Andronicus: Why, tis no matter, man; if they did hear,

They would not mark me, or if they did mark, 

They would not pity me, yet plead I must; 

And bootless unto them [—] 

Therefore I tell my sorrows to the stones; 

Who, though they cannot answer my distress, 

Yet in some sort they are better than the tribunes, 

For that they will not intercept my tale: 

When I do weep, they humbly at my feet 

Receive my tears and seem to weep with me; 

And, were they but attired in grave weeds,

Rome could afford no tribune like to these. 

A stone is soft as wax,—tribunes more hard than stones; 

A stone is silent, and offendeth not, 

And tribunes with their tongues doom men to death.
[Rises]
But wherefore stand'st thou with thy weapon drawn?

Lucius: To rescue my two brothers from their death: 
For which attempt the judges have pronounced 
My everlasting doom of banishment.

Titus Andronicus: O happy man! they have befriended thee.
Why, foolish Lucius, dost thou not perceive 
That Rome is but a wilderness of tigers? 
Tigers must prey, and Rome affords no prey 
But me and mine: how happy art thou, then, 
From these devourers to be banished!

Which of the following is NOT reasonable evidence of authorial bias against the tribunes and civil administrators in general in this passage?

Possible Answers:

The extended comparison of the tribunes to the rocks reflects more favorably on the rocks as listeners and empathetic beings than on the tribunes

The stereotypical physical depiction of the tribunes as feeble, elderly, and dependent on the assistance of others

The extended time given to Titus' complaints about the tribunes, as compared to their silent exit from the stage

The contrast between made between the sacrifices Titus has made, shedding his own blood and losing sons in battle, and the relatively secure position of the tribunes

The metaphorical characterization of the tribunes as "tigers"

Correct answer:

The stereotypical physical depiction of the tribunes as feeble, elderly, and dependent on the assistance of others

Explanation:

The only of the answers that is NOT evidence of author bias (or preference) in favor of Titus and against the tribunes (and civil administrators in general) is the stereotypical depiction of the tribunes as feeble and elderly. Although Titus does reference their "securely [sleeping]" when Titus and his sons have been out fighting battles, there is no specific indication in the passage that the tribunes are old and frail, and there is no mention of helpers assisting them physically.

The tribunes' silence, unfavorable comparison to rocks, and characterization as vicious tigers are all evidence of authorial bias (or preference) in favor of Titus' position against their unfeeling political actions and way of operating, as is the contrast made between Titus' sacrifices and the tribunes' safe, judgmental position of power.

Example Question #2 : Effect Of Specified Text: Drama

Adapted from Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare, III.i.1126-1185 (1623)

Enter Judges, Senators and Tribunes, with MARTIUS and QUINTUS, bound, passing on to the place of execution; TITUS going before, pleading

Titus Andronicus: Hear me, grave fathers! noble tribunes, stay! 
For pity of mine age, whose youth was spent 
In dangerous wars, whilst you securely slept; 
For all my blood in Rome's great quarrel shed; 
For all the frosty nights that I have watch'd;
And for these bitter tears, which now you see 
Filling the aged wrinkles in my cheeks; 
Be pitiful to my condemned sons, 
Whose souls are not corrupted as 'tis thought. 
For two and twenty sons I never wept, 
Because they died in honor's lofty bed. 
[Lieth down; the Judges, &c., pass by him, and Exeunt] 
For these, these, tribunes, in the dust I write 
My heart's deep languor and my soul's sad tears: 
Let my tears stanch the earth's dry appetite; 
My sons' sweet blood will make it shame and blush. 
O earth, I will befriend thee more with rain, 
That shall distill from these two ancient urns, 
Than youthful April shall with all his showers: 
In summer's drought I'll drop upon thee still; 
In winter with warm tears I'll melt the snow 
And keep eternal spring-time on thy face, 
So thou refuse to drink my dear sons' blood. 
[Enter LUCIUS, with his sword drawn] 
O reverend tribunes! O gentle, aged men! 
Unbind my sons, reverse the doom of death; 
And let me say, that never wept before, 
My tears are now prevailing orators.

Lucius: O noble father, you lament in vain: 
The tribunes hear you not; no man is by;
And you recount your sorrows to a stone.

Titus Andronicus: Ah, Lucius, for thy brothers let me plead. 
Grave tribunes, once more I entreat of you,—

Lucius: My gracious lord, no tribune hears you speak.

Titus Andronicus: Why, tis no matter, man; if they did hear,

They would not mark me, or if they did mark, 

They would not pity me, yet plead I must; 

And bootless unto them [—] 

Therefore I tell my sorrows to the stones; 

Who, though they cannot answer my distress, 

Yet in some sort they are better than the tribunes, 

For that they will not intercept my tale: 

When I do weep, they humbly at my feet 

Receive my tears and seem to weep with me; 

And, were they but attired in grave weeds,

Rome could afford no tribune like to these. 

A stone is soft as wax,—tribunes more hard than stones; 

A stone is silent, and offendeth not, 

And tribunes with their tongues doom men to death.
[Rises]
But wherefore stand'st thou with thy weapon drawn?

Lucius: To rescue my two brothers from their death: 
For which attempt the judges have pronounced 
My everlasting doom of banishment.

Titus Andronicus: O happy man! they have befriended thee.
Why, foolish Lucius, dost thou not perceive 
That Rome is but a wilderness of tigers? 
Tigers must prey, and Rome affords no prey 
But me and mine: how happy art thou, then, 
From these devourers to be banished!

In the context of the entire passage, which of the following is a reasonable purpose for Lucius to be carrying a sword throughout his conversation with Titus Andronicus?

Possible Answers:

Lucius' carrying the sword characterizes him as a warrior, and puts him on even footing with his father, a triumphant war hero in the prime of his life.

Lucius' carrying the sword provides a visual representation of the difference between his and his father's approaches to the tribunes' sentencing of his brothers; Lucius is active and aggressive, while Titus is passive and resigned.

Lucius' carrying the sword characterizes him as a warrior, and provides a visual representation of the difference between him and his father, a lifelong politician.

Lucius' carrying the sword provides a visual representation of the difference between his and his father's approaches to the tribunes' sentencing of his brothers; Lucius is angry and unreasonable, while Titus is pragmatic and controlled.

Lucius' carrying the sword provides a visual representation of the difference between his and his father's approaches to the tribunes' sentencing of his brothers; Lucius is content to threaten action, while Titus advocates silent, well-planned revenge.

Correct answer:

Lucius' carrying the sword provides a visual representation of the difference between his and his father's approaches to the tribunes' sentencing of his brothers; Lucius is active and aggressive, while Titus is passive and resigned.

Explanation:

In the context of the entire passage, Lucius's carrying a sword provides a visual representation of the difference between his approach and his father's; Lucius aggressively tries to "rescue [his] brothers," while Titus begs with the tribunes, calling upon their "pity" and citing his old age and past sacrifices, then passively continues pleading to rocks after they leave.

Titus does not advocate silent revenge, and although he is a war hero and not a lifelong politician, he is far past the prime of his life, as he repeatedly states. While Lucius' action did get him banished, and was possibly rash and overly aggressive, Titus does not advocate for a particularly pragmatic approach, as is evidenced by his prolonged chat with the rocks.

Example Question #1 : Effect Of Specified Text: Drama

NESTOR: Tell him of Nestor, one that was a man

When Hector's grandsire suck'd: he is old now;

But if there be not in our Grecian host

One noble man that hath one spark of fire,

To answer for his love, tell [them] from me     (5)

I'll hide my silver beard in a gold beaver

And in my vantbrace put this wither'd brawn…

I'll prove this truth with my three drops of blood.

… ULYSSES: Give pardon to my speech:

Therefore 'tis meet Achilles meet not Hector.    (10)

What is the purpose of the following phrase (line 2)? “When Hector’s grandsire suck’d”

Possible Answers:

To shame a particularly inhospitable Grecian

To indirectly insult Hector

To give readers a more nuanced characterization of the speaker

To emphasize the speaker’s great age

To claim an important hereditary link

Correct answer:

To emphasize the speaker’s great age

Explanation:

Reading the rest of the line provides valuable context for the phrase in question: “he is old now.” Indeed, much of Nestor’s speech discusses his continued courage in the face of his old age. We can further infer that Hector may be a contemporary of Nestor (he is) and that the reference to his “grandsire” (grandfather) is designed to emphasize Nestor’s age.

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida (1602).

Example Question #37 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from Richard III by William Shakespeare, I.i.1-42

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other:
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false and treacherous,
This day should Clarence closely be mew'd up,
About a prophecy, which says that 'G'
Of Edward's heirs the murderer shall be.
Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here
Clarence comes.

In the underlined line, the speaker conveys that he __________.

Possible Answers:

doubts whether his plan will work

wants to feel morally justified in his actions

wants to kill his brother

wants to take the throne for himself

wants to hide his plans and intentions from his brother

Correct answer:

wants to hide his plans and intentions from his brother

Explanation:

In the underlined line, “Dive, thoughts, down to my soul,” the speaker indicates that he wants to hide his plans and intentions from his brother, Clarence, as immediately after this line, he states, “here / Clarence comes.” While the speaker may very well want to kill his brother, take the throne for himself, or feel morally justified in his actions, the specified line does not convey any of those meanings.

Example Question #4 : Effect Of Specified Text: Drama

Adapted from Richard III by William Shakespeare, I.i.1-42

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other:
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false and treacherous,
This day should Clarence closely be mew'd up,
About a prophecy, which says that 'G'
Of Edward's heirs the murderer shall be.
Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here
Clarence comes.

What is implicitly being compared with "victorious wreaths" in the underlined line, "Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths"?

Possible Answers:

Blindfolds

Complex moral and philosophical problems

The wrapping on the exterior of gifts

Swords' scabbards

Medical bandages

Correct answer:

Medical bandages

Explanation:

The underlined line, "Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths" (I.i.5), follows the first four lines' conceit about seasonal change mirroring political change and precedes three lines of comparing one item being changed or exchanged for another, so it is reasonable to assume that it is also about change. One can see this in context in its use of the word "Now"—an implicit comparison is being made in the line. Which of the answer choices might be something that one might "bind one's brow" with? "Medical bandages," "blindfolds," and perhaps figuratively "Complex moral and philosophical problems" all stick out as potentially correct. Gift wrap has nothing to do with the context of the line and while swords' scabbards pick up on the initial condition of war that is being changed to peace in all of the comparisons mentioned above, it doesn't make sense when considered as something with which one could "bind one's brow." 

"Complex moral and philosophical problems" doesn't have any particular evidence in the indicated line or the surrounding one that points to it as being the correct answer. This leaves us with "blindfolds" and "medical bandages." Consider again the state of war characterizing all of the initial conditions of these comparisons. While one can "bind one's brow" with a blindfold, the idea of medical bandages is far more closely related to the state of war. One might receive a head wound in a battle and need one's head bandaged. This is the correct answer.

Example Question #2 : Effect Of Specified Text: Drama

RAPHAEL
The Sun, in ancient guise, competing 
With brother spheres in rival song, 
With thunder-march, his orb completing, 
Moves his predestin'd course along; 
His aspect to the powers supernal 
Gives strength, though fathom him none may;
Transcending thought, the works eternal 
Are fair as on the primal day. 

GABRIEL
With speed, thought baffling, unabating,
Earth's splendour whirls in circling flight; 
Its Eden-brightness alternating 
With solemn, awe-inspiring night; 
Ocean's broad waves in wild commotion,
Against the rocks' deep base are hurled; 
And with the spheres, both rock and ocean 
Eternally are swiftly whirled.

MICHAEL
And tempests roar in emulation
From sea to land, from land to sea,
And raging form, without cessation,
A chain of wondrous agency,
Full in the thunder's path careering,
Flaring the swift destructions play;
But, Lord, Thy servants are revering
The mild procession of thy day.

(1808)

The lines spoken by Gabriel primarily serve to _________________.

Possible Answers:

provide a contrast to the more peaceful imagery presented in Michael's speech

provide evidence to support the notion that humans dominate their natural environment

explain why humans should protect their natural environment

prove that the power of nature is only temporary

demonstrate the immense power of nature

Correct answer:

demonstrate the immense power of nature

Explanation:

Gabriel describes the natural world with terms like "unabating," "awe-inspiring," and "eternally". The speed and power of nature is likewise highlighted, making this the opposite of a peaceful scene. No mention is made of the interaction of humans in this natural world.

Passage adapted from Johann von Goethe's Faust (1808)

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