SAT II Literature : Grammar and Syntax: Drama

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Grammar And Syntax: Drama

For I-be Zeus my witness, who sees all things always-would not be silent if I saw ruin, instead of safety, coming to the citizens; nor would I ever deem the country's foe a friend to myself; remembering this, that our country is the ship that bears us safe, and that only while she prospers in our voyage can we make true friends.

(Fifth century BCE)

In the last line of the passage, "she" refers to __________.

Possible Answers:

the voyage

the country's allies

the country

the citizens of the country

the country's foes

Correct answer:

the country

Explanation:

The author compares the country to a ship, and refers to both at the ship and the country (which have been tied together by a simile) at the same time when he writes "she prospers in our voyage"

(Adapted from the R. C. Jebb translation of Antigone by Sophocles 211-218, Fifth century BCE)

Example Question #199 : Ap English Literature And Composition

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)

What is the subject of the verb "bury" in line 8?

Possible Answers:

"these two foes" (line 5)

"their parents' strife" (line 8)

"Two households" (line 1)

"misadventured piteous overthrows" (line 7)

"A pair of star-cross'd lovers" (line 6)

Correct answer:

"misadventured piteous overthrows" (line 7)

Explanation:

The subject of a verb is the thing that performs the action of the verb. For instance, in the sentence, "The dog barks," the verb is "barks" and the subject is "the dog." The thing performing the action of the verb "bury" (line 8) is the "misadventured piteous overthrows" (line 7). The "overthrows" are what "bury" the parents' strife.  

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

Example Question #4 : Syntax And Structure Of 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.

The syntax of the first two lines __________.

Possible Answers:

suggests that the “sun of York” is to blame for “the winter of our discontent”

makes it seem as if the speaker is the only one suffering from the “discontent” he describes

underscores the regular passing of the seasons

emphasizes the timing of the events described

suggests that the speaker is an unreliable narrator

Correct answer:

emphasizes the timing of the events described

Explanation:

The first two lines of the passage are “Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun of York.” What do you notice about the syntax, or the order in which words and phrases are presented? Whereas one might have phrased the line “The winter of our discontent is now made glorious summer by the sun of York” or “The sun of York has now made glorious summer of the winter of our discontent,” or in numerous other ways, Shakespeare has made the first word “Now.” This emphasizes the timing of the events described.

Example Question #2 : Syntax And Structure Of 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.

Consider the underlined selection. Which of the following is NOT true?

Possible Answers:

The location of “lover” and “villain” at the end of their respective lines places them in contrast to one another.

“Fair” and “well-spoken” are associated with the villain’s perspective, whereas “idle” is associated with the lover’s perspective.

The repetition of the words “prove” and “days” helps contrast the two roles being discussed.

The syntax of the first two lines loosely mirrors the syntax of the latter two lines.

The lover’s action is to “entertain,” whereas the villain’s action is to “hate.”

Correct answer:

“Fair” and “well-spoken” are associated with the villain’s perspective, whereas “idle” is associated with the lover’s perspective.

Explanation:

The syntax of the first two lines does indeed mirror that of the last two lines; they are similarly constructed in that they both follow the form of “I (cannot) prove a (noun) / to (verb) (descriptors) days.” The lover’s action in this sequence is to “entertain,” and the villain’s is to “hate.” The repetition of the words “prove” and “days” do contrast the two roles being discussed, as it places them in parallel to one another; similarly, the location of “lover” and “villain” at the ends of their respective lines place them in parallel with one another and contrast them. This leaves us with the correct answer, “‘Fair’ and ‘well-spoken’ are associated with the villain’s perspective, whereas ‘idle’ is associated with the lover’s perspective.” This is not true, as “fair” and “well-spoken” appear in the second line, which describes the action of the “lover,” whereas “idle” appears in the fourth line, which describes the action of the “villain.”

Example Question #2 : Grammar And Syntax: 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.

The passage’s point of view can be characterized as ________________.

Possible Answers:

third person only

first person and second person only

 second and third person only

first person only

second person only

Correct answer:

first person and second person only

Explanation:

Prospero uses first and second person quite a lot. (“I have bedimm’d…” and “Ye elves…”) That means we can immediately eliminate three answer choices: “first person only”, “second person only”, and “third person only”. If we’re clear on how important first person is in this speech, we can eliminate “second and third person only” as well. The tricky part here is that Prospero does use the third person to a very limited extent. (“graves at my command/ Have waked their sleepers…”) But “first, second, and third person” is not one of the answer choices. First and second person appear far more than third person, so that’s the best answer.

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

Example Question #3 : Grammar And Syntax: 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.

The syntax of the passage is characterized by __________________.

Possible Answers:

expressive ellipsis

complex sentences

sententious repetition

incomplete thoughts

a shift from simple to elaborate

Correct answer:

complex sentences

Explanation:

This entire speech consists of two complex sentences. It does not contain incomplete thoughts or omissions (ellipses.) It doesn’t move from simple to elaborate: the first lines are already grand and imposing, while the last half-line (“I’ll drown my book”) is most striking because of its simplicity. There are repeated themes and ideas — the list of supernatural spirits, the catalogue of natural cataclysms — but the effect is not sententious (that is, it’s not banal or pompous.)


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

Example Question #4 : Grammar And Syntax: Drama

Passage adapted from Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (1897)
Translated by Gladys Thomas and Mary F. Guillemard (in public domain)

[Cyrano speaks to Roxane.]

CYRANO:

  1. Ay, true, the feeling
  2. Which fills me, terrible and jealous, truly
  3. Love,--which is ever sad amid its transports!
  4. Love,--and yet, strangely, not a selfish passion!
  5. I for your joy would gladly lay mine own down,
  6. --E'en though you never were to know it,--never!
  7. --If but at times I might--far off and lonely,--
  8. Hear some gay echo of the joy I bought you!
  9. Each glance of thine awakes in me a virtue,--
  10. A novel, unknown valor. Dost begin, sweet,
  11. To understand? So late, dost understand me?
  12. Feel'st thou my soul, here, through the darkness mounting?
  13. Too fair the night! Too fair, too fair the moment!
  14. That I should speak thus, and that you should hearken!
  15. Too fair! In moments when my hopes rose proudest,
  16. I never hoped such guerdon. Naught is left me
  17. But to die now! Have words of mine the power
  18. To make you tremble,--throned there in the branches?
  19. Ay, like a leaf among the leaves, you tremble!
  20. You tremble! For I feel,--an if you will it,
  21. Or will it not,--your hand's beloved trembling
  22. Thrill through the branches, down your sprays of jasmine!

In this context, the word “sweet” (line 10) is _____________.

Possible Answers:

an adjective

a noun

a conjunction

an adverb

an attributive

Correct answer:

a noun

Explanation:

Here, “sweet” is a noun. It is the name that Cyrano is calling Roxane. “Dost begin, sweet,/ To understand?” means, “Are you beginning to understand, sweetheart?” (The pronoun “thou” is implied.)

Cyrano starts out addressing Roxane as "you": the more formal form of the pronoun in those days, in the same way that modern French "vous" is more formal than "tu". In line 9, he switches to "thou":

"Each glance of thine awakes in me a virtue . . ."

This suggests that he's getting more emotional and feeling closer to Roxane.

In the next line, he's still using the familiar form, which is a big clue that "sweet" is an endearment.

Example Question #5 : Grammar And Syntax: Drama

Passage adapted from Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (1897)
Translated by Gladys Thomas and Mary F. Guillemard (in public domain)

[Cyrano speaks to Roxane.]

CYRANO:

  1. Ay, true, the feeling
  2. Which fills me, terrible and jealous, truly
  3. Love,--which is ever sad amid its transports!
  4. Love,--and yet, strangely, not a selfish passion!
  5. I for your joy would gladly lay mine own down,
  6. --E'en though you never were to know it,--never!
  7. --If but at times I might--far off and lonely,--
  8. Hear some gay echo of the joy I bought you!
  9. Each glance of thine awakes in me a virtue,--
  10. A novel, unknown valor. Dost begin, sweet,
  11. To understand? So late, dost understand me?
  12. Feel'st thou my soul, here, through the darkness mounting?
  13. Too fair the night! Too fair, too fair the moment!
  14. That I should speak thus, and that you should hearken!
  15. Too fair! In moments when my hopes rose proudest,
  16. I never hoped such guerdon. Naught is left me
  17. But to die now! Have words of mine the power
  18. To make you tremble,--throned there in the branches?
  19. Ay, like a leaf among the leaves, you tremble!
  20. You tremble! For I feel,--an if you will it,
  21. Or will it not,--your hand's beloved trembling
  22. Thrill through the branches, down your sprays of jasmine!

The adjective “throned” (line 18) describes which noun/pronoun?

Possible Answers:

Cyrano’s power

Cyrano

Leaves

Cyrano’s words

“You” — i.e., Roxane

Correct answer:

“You” — i.e., Roxane

Explanation:

“You” is the pronoun described by “throned”. “Have words of mine the power/To make you tremble,--throned there in the branches?” In other words, “Do my words have the power to make you tremble, you who are sitting on a throne above me?”

This image emphasized Cyrano's worshipful attitude toward Roxane. It's as if he's asking, "Could any humble words of MINE have the power to rise up and affect YOU, who are so far above me?"

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