SAT II Literature : Meaning of Specified Text: Drama

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Question #1 : Meaning Of Specified Text: 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)

In line 14, what is "our toil" referring to?

Possible Answers:

Laborers in Verona

The writer's effort in composing this

The performance of the play

The lover's struggle

The grief over the lovers' death

Correct answer:

The performance of the play

Explanation:

It is clear from line 12--"Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage"--that this speech is the introduction to a play. Because of the context of the plot outline, and because the phrase used is "our stage," it is clear that in this passage one of the actors is introducing what is going to be performed. This, combined with a reference in line 13 to the audience's "patient ears," makes it clear that "our toil" in line 14 refers to the effort of the actors as they perform the play.

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

Example Question #2 : Meaning 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 context, the bolded and underlined word "pitiful" is closest in meaning to which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Tough

Pathetic

Merciful

Meager

Charitable

Correct answer:

Merciful

Explanation:

In this context, "pitiful" most closely means merciful. Titus is asking the tribunes to be merciful (pitying or forgiving of) to his sons. "Meager" and "pathetic" are both common definitions of "pitiful," but they are not relevant to this context. "Charitable" is a possible meaning, but since the sons are "condemned," it is more mercy that is being asked for than charity.

Example Question #3 : Meaning 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 most closely summarizes the content of the bolded and underlined excerpt?

Possible Answers:

Titus begs the tribunes to spare his two condemned sons. He claims that he would not weep for these sons if they died honorably, as they are adults in their twenties, but he would weep and mourn for them if they were sentenced to death.

Titus begs the tribunes to spare his condemned sons because they are completely innocent. He notes that he has had two twenty-year old sons die in battle, and both of these young, now honored men, were less pure of heart than his condemned sons.

Titus begs the tribunes to spare his condemned sons because they are completely innocent. After the tribunes reject him, he goes into an extended comparison between the tribunes and silent rocks.

Titus begs the tribunes to spare his condemned sons. He says that he has wept for and mourned the death of twenty-two of his sons, even though they all died honorably in battle, but he would feel a depth of sadness he has never before known for the sons condemned to die. 

Titus begs the tribunes to spare his two condemned sons. He claims that he never cried for his twenty-two other sons who died honorably, but he will mourn for these two, who have been sentenced to death.

Correct answer:

Titus begs the tribunes to spare his two condemned sons. He claims that he never cried for his twenty-two other sons who died honorably, but he will mourn for these two, who have been sentenced to death.

Explanation:

The answer that most closely summarized the content of the excerpt is "Titus begs the tribunes to spare his two condemned sons. He claims that he never cried for his twenty-two other sons who died honorably, but he will mourn for these two, who have been sentenced to death." In this context, "two and twenty" means twenty-two, so Titus is, indeed, stating that he has lost twenty-two sons in battle, for whom he "has never wept" because they died honorably in battle defending Rome. 

While Titus does claim that his sons' "souls are not corrupted as 'tis thought," this is not the central aspect of his argument against their being sentenced to death; rather, he leans heavily on his own sadness and past sacrifices for Rome. He does not compare the quality of his twenty-two dead sons to his current condemned ones, only the nature of their demises and his reaction to those demises; he never cried for the sons who died honorably.

Example Question #4 : Meaning Of Specified Text: 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.

In context, the underlined and bolded phrase "glutted with conceit" most closely means what?

Possible Answers:

Filled with the idea

Filled with pride

Overwhelmed by information

Fooled by deceit

Confused by the notion

Correct answer:

Filled with the idea

Explanation:

In context, the phrase "glutted with conceit" most closely means "filled with the idea." In this context, "conceit" would most closely be said to mean "idea", "notion," or "concept". Faustus is stating that he is filled (with feeling) at the idea of having necromantic powers, and of possibly having the spirits do his bidding. The voluminous imagining of what he might do with his powers is evidence of his being "full with the idea" of these powers.

"Conceit" can be used in reference to deceit, but it is important to remember that Faustus is the speaker, and as evidenced by his speech that follows, he does not believe that anyone is deceiving him. He does not express confusion, nor does he seem particularly overwhelmed. While Faustus is obviously filled with pride and arrogance in his speech, the term "conceit" does not refer to pride in this context, as the rest of his speech focuses on the idea or notion or his powers, not his own self-conscious pride.

Example Question #5 : Meaning Of Specified Text: 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.

In the underlined and bolded section of the passage, Faustus makes which of the following arguments?

Possible Answers:

He argues that doctors, priests, and lawyers are beneath pure academics, and that only scholars should he entitled to help in mastering the occult.

He argues that conventional divinity can be defeated by argument, and that the occult cannot.

He argues that because he is interested in occult practices he must resign his academic position.

He argues that conventional divinity is misapplied, and asks for his listeners in correcting practices of that discipline.

He argues that earthly academic pursuits are beneath him, and his listeners should aid him in mastering his new interest, the occult.

Correct answer:

He argues that earthly academic pursuits are beneath him, and his listeners should aid him in mastering his new interest, the occult.

Explanation:

In the underlined and bolded section of the passage, Faustus argues that earthly academic pursuits—"philosophy", law and physic, and "divinity"—are all "base," "odious," etc., and that his listeners should help him ("gentle friends aid me in this attempt") master his new interest the occult (which he claims has "ravished" him).

He includes academics with doctors and lawyers in his dismissal of conventional, earthly learning. He makes no mention of his academic position, nor of resigning. While he later claims to have defeated "pastors" with "syllogism," he does not mention that in the indicated section, nor does he specifically claim that the occult cannot also be defeated in this manner (although that is implied). While he feels divinity is the "basest" of academic disciplines, he does not ask his listeners for any help in correcting it.

Example Question #6 : Meaning 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.

When he speaks of “dissembling nature,” underlined in the passage, the speaker is referring to __________.

Possible Answers:

tricking nature

the tendency of all people to lie under pressure

his own personality

a personification of nature

taking apart nature’s features systematically in order to better understand the natural world

Correct answer:

a personification of nature

Explanation:

While it may be tempting to pick the answer choice “his own personality” given that the narrator describes himself as “subtle, false and treacherous,” it is important to consider the context of the underlined phrase. “Dissembling nature” appears in the context of the lines, “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 . . . “ By considering the context, you can see that the narrator is not describing “his own personality,” “tricking nature,” “the tendency of all people to lie under pressure,” or “taking apart nature’s features systematically in order to better understand the natural world”; he is instead referring to “a personification of nature.”

Example Question #7 : Meaning Of Specified Text: 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.

In the context of the passage, “ebbing Neptune” (line 3) most likely means _________________.

Possible Answers:

the turning of the tide

waves on the beach

the king of the underworld

a mythical sea creature

the depths of the sea

Correct answer:

waves on the beach

Explanation:

Prospero is addressing supernatural beings who dart across the sand without leaving footprints, chasing the waves as they recede and then running away when they come crashing onto the beach. “Ebbing” means “receding”, and Neptune is the Roman god of the sea: here a metaphorical term for the ocean. The correct answer is "waves on the beach."

The depths of the sea do not ebb and “come back”, so it’s clear that’s not what Prospero is talking about. We usually associate the word “ebb” with tides, but Prospero says nothing here about that. Nor does he mention mythical sea creatures. The king of the underworld (Hades/Pluto) is unrelated to anything in this speech.

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

Example Question #8 : Meaning Of Specified Text: 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.

In the context of the passage, the word “bolt” (line 14) means _________________.

Possible Answers:

a lock

an iron bar

an axe

lightning

a bonfire

Correct answer:

lightning

Explanation:

Prospero states that he has created a storm at sea, and has added lightning (“fire”) to the “rattling thunder”. He then took the lightning and used it to split an oak tree. (Jove was the Roman god of lightning, and the oak was sacred to him, so Prospero is using one of the god’s symbols to destroy another one.) Once we see how the storm/thunder/lightning idea is developed, it’s clear that “bolt” in this context has nothing to do with bars, locks, or axes. “Bonfire” can be eliminated because it has nothing to do with thunder and lightning.

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

Example Question #9 : Meaning Of Specified Text: 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.

In line 18, the word “art” most nearly means __________________.

Possible Answers:

magical power

demonic contract

ascetic self-discipline

creative design

intoxicating potion

Correct answer:

magical power

Explanation:

Prospero gives us a list of his incredible accomplishments, ending the sentence with, “…By my most potent art.” “My most potent art” is the means by which he’s achieved everything he just described: i.e., his magical power. In this context “art” suggests “power” or “skill” rather than anything related to visual design. The speech mentions “elves” — small supernatural spirits of various kinds — but there’s nothing here about demons or a contract. There’s also no mention of a potion. And while Prospero may practice ascetic self-discipline, that’s not what he’s discussing in this speech.

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

Example Question #10 : Meaning Of Specified Text: 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 azured vault” (line 26) most likely means ________________.

Possible Answers:

the shoreline

the sky

a burial chamber

a battlefield

the blue sea

Correct answer:

the sky

Explanation:

In lines 9-12, Prospero describes how he has used magic to cause a solar eclipse, raise the winds, and create a huge storm (“roaring war”) at sea. (This is the eponymous tempest.) The storm fills the space between ocean and sky: the “azure vault”, with “vault” used in the architectural sense of a high, arched structure covering something else.

Prospero does mention the sea (line 11), but if we plug that in as the meaning of “azured vault”, we can see that a storm blowing “'twixt the green sea and the sea” doesn’t make sense. The same is true of a storm “'twixt the green sea and the shoreline.” There is nothing in the speech about a battlefield or a burial chamber.

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

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