SAT II Literature : Structure and Form: Drama

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Structure And Form: Drama

MEPHISTOPHELES: Tut, Faustus,

Marriage is but a ceremonial toy;

And if thou lovest me, think no more of it.        

I’ll cull thee out the fairest courtesans,

And bring them every morning to thy bed;(5)

She whom thine eye shall like, thy heart shall have,

Be she as chaste as was Penelope,

As wise as Saba, or as beautiful        

As was bright Lucifer before his fall.

Here, take this book peruse it thoroughly:  [Gives a book.] (10)

The iterating of these lines brings gold;

The framing of this circle on the ground

Brings whirlwinds, tempests, thunder and lightning;

Pronounce this thrice devoutly to thyself…

(1592)

This passage is an example of what literary form?

Possible Answers:

Epistolary poem

Monologue

Soliloquy

Eclogue

Petrarchan sonnet 

Correct answer:

Monologue

Explanation:

Here, we have to be careful to distinguish between a monologue and a soliloquy. The former is an extended speech given when other characters are on stage, and the latter is an extended speech given when no other characters are on stage (or when the speaker thinks there are no other characters on stage). Based on the fact that the speaker here is addressing someone directly, we can deduce that this passage is a monologue.

Passage adapted from Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus (1592)

Example Question #2 : Structure And Form: 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)

This passage is an example of what dramatic form?

Possible Answers:

Aside

Soliloquy

Dramatis personae

Deus Ex Machina

Monologue

Correct answer:

Monologue

Explanation:

In this passage, King Henry V addresses a large group of soldiers. Because the extended speech is thus presented in front of others, it is a monologue and not a soliloquy. An aside, on the other hand, is a lengthy speech delivered to or for the benefit of the audience and not the other characters. A dramatis personae is a list of characters at the beginning of a play. Deus ex machina is the use of a contrived plot device or outside power to solve a problem in a story, novel, or play (e.g. Shakespeare’s use of pirates in Hamlet).

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

Example Question #2 : Structure And Form: Drama

KING LEAR: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

You cataracts and hurricanes, spout

Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks! 

You sulph'rous and thought-executing fires,

Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,   (5)

Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,

Strike flat the thick rotundity o' th' world,

Crack Nature's moulds, all germains spill at once, 

That makes ingrateful man!

(1606)

What is this passage’s poetic meter?

Possible Answers:

Hendecasyllabics

Dactylic hexameter

Blank verse

Heroic couplets

Free verse

Correct answer:

Free verse

Explanation:

Unlike much of Shakespeare’s work, which is typically in iambic pentameter, this poem does not have a fixed meter. It also does not have a fixed rhyme scheme. This makes it an example of free verse.

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare’s King Lear (1606)

Example Question #1 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

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 syntax and punctuation of the highlighted lines __________.

Possible Answers:

suggest that the speaker is unreliable

emphasize the speaker's anger through the use directives and exclamation points

suggest that the listeners are confused about what to do with the speaker

imply that speaker is the one who is uncertain and fearful

emphasize the speaker's desperation to stay in the city through the use of exclamation points

Correct answer:

emphasize the speaker's anger through the use directives and exclamation points

Explanation:

The highlighted lines emphasize the speaker's anger through the use of exclamation points (for emphasis) and mean-spirited directives to those listening to him. The use of these directives, combined with the exclamation points, gives the sense that the speaker is shouting angrily at his listeners.

He does not seem uncertain, nor does he seem desperate to stay, as he is wishing ill on those who will. There is nothing in the highlighted lines to directly suggest that he is unreliable or that he is the one who is uncertain and fearful.

Example Question #3 : Structure And Form: Drama

TROILUS: Peace, you ungracious clamours! peace, rude sounds!

Fools on both sides! Helen must needs be fair,

When with your blood you daily paint her thus.

I cannot fight upon this argument;

It is too starved a subject for my sword.    (5)

What is the meter of the majority of this passage?

Possible Answers:

None of these choices

Blank verse

Trochaic pentameter

Iambic tetrameter

Dactylic hexameter

Correct answer:

Blank verse

Explanation:

This passage is mostly written in iambic pentameter: a pattern of five pairs of unstressed-stressed syllables.

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

Example Question #4 : Structure And Form: Drama

TROILUS: Peace, you ungracious clamours! peace, rude sounds!

Fools on both sides! Helen must needs be fair,

When with your blood you daily paint her thus.

I cannot fight upon this argument;

It is too starved a subject for my sword.    (5)

Which line in this passage most deviates from the intended meter?

Possible Answers:

Line 1

Line 3

Line 2

Line 5

Line 4

Correct answer:

Line 2

Explanation:

This passage is mostly written in iambic pentameter, but the cadence of line 2 falters in the middle upon “Helen.” Following the rhythm of iambic pentameter would place the emphasis on the second syllable of “Helen,” which is not how the name is usually pronounced. Lines 3-5 adhere perfectly to iambic pentameter.

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

Example Question #5 : Structure And Form: 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)

 

FAUST: 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.

The underlined section signals a shift in Faustus' __________.

Possible Answers:

mode of address, from direct address to soliloquy

tone, from defiant to obsequious

tone, from angry to whimsical

subject matter, from the occult practices to practical travel plans

mode of address, from soliloquy to direct address

Correct answer:

mode of address, from soliloquy to direct address

Explanation:

The highlighted lines signal a shift in Faustus' mode of address from soliloquy to direct address. At the beginning of the passage, Faustus remarks on his own emotional state ("How am I glutted with conceit") and proceeds to enumerate on his own fantasies to himself and the audience. When Valdes and Cornelius enter, Faustus shifts his mode of address to address them instead of himself.

The subject matter always remains at least somewhat focused on the occult. Faustus' tone is never particularly obsequious, and it starts out as whimsical rather than defiant or angry.

Example Question #8 : Structure And Form: 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.

Which of the following contrasts is most relevant to the passage?

Possible Answers:

Activity and passivity

Conventional knowledge and magic

Illusion and reality

Past and present

Light and darkness

Correct answer:

Conventional knowledge and magic

Explanation:

The most relevant contrast in the passage is the contrast between conventional knowledge and magic. While Faustus describes magic as being fascinating, he frames conventional knowledge as "odious," "petty," and "base."

While illusion and reality are extremely important themes in the overall play, they are not the most relevant contrast seen in this passage. Light and darkness, as a contrast for this passage, is an overly vague answer, and is not discussed directly in this excerpt.

Example Question #6 : Structure And Form: Drama

MERCUTIO:

O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.

She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes

In shape no bigger than an agate-stone

On the fore-finger of an alderman,

Drawn with a team of little atomies (5) 

Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep…

And in this state she gallops night by night

Through lover's brains, and then they dream of love;

O'er courtiers' knees, that dream on court'sies straight;

O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees…    (10)

Sometime she gallops o'er a courtier's nose,

And then dreams he of smelling out a suit…

(1597)

What type of verse is this?

Possible Answers:

Free verse

Heroic verse

Mock heroic

Blank verse

Confessional poetry

Correct answer:

Blank verse

Explanation:

Here we have unrhymed lines of iambic pentameter. Were they in rhymed pairs, we would have heroic couplets, and were they satirical rhymed pairs, we would have a mock heroic. Since, however, the lines are uncoupled, this is simply blank verse.

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (1597)

Example Question #7 : Structure And Form: Drama

HAMLET: … What would he do,

Had he the motive and the cue for passion

That I have? He would drown the stage with tears

And cleave the general ear with horrid speech,

Make mad the guilty and appal the free,(5)

Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed

The very faculties of eyes and ears. Yet I,

A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,

Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,

And can say nothing. No, not for a king, (10)

Upon whose property and most dear life

A damned defeat was made. Am I a coward?

Who calls me villain? 

What type of verse is this?

Possible Answers:

Free verse

Blank verse

Sestina

Sonnet

Mock heroic

Correct answer:

Blank verse

Explanation:

Here we have unrhymed lines of iambic pentameter. Were they in rhymed pairs, we would have heroic couplets, and were they satirical rhymed pairs, we would have a mock heroic. However, since the lines are uncoupled, this is simply blank verse. A sonnet is typically a 14-line love poem, and a sestina is a series of 6-line stanzas concluded by one 3-line stanza.

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark. (1603)

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