SAT II Literature : Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Describing Drama

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Summarizing, Paraphrasing, And Describing 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 bolded and underlined lines, Titus addresses what and/or whom?

Possible Answers:

The tribunes only

The tribunes and Lucius

The tribunes, the earth, and Lucius

The tribunes, Lucius, the earth, and himself

The tribunes and the earth

Correct answer:

The tribunes and the earth

Explanation:

In the indicated lines, Titus is addressing the tribunes ("hear me grave fathers," "O reverend tribunes") and the earth ("O earth, I will befriend thee"). While Lucius enters the stage during this speech, Titus does not directly address him in the indicated lines. While Titus does speak as the only person in the room, he is still addressing the absent tribunes in the highlighted section of the passage. At no point does he address himself directly in a soliloquy.

The key to answering this question is to look for markers that reveal to whom Titus is speaking. "O" is a common marker of address in Shakespeare's works. Another technique is to examine all the uses of the second person ("you," "thee," etc.) and trace these instances of the second to a specific subject who is being addressed.

Example Question #7 : Interpreting The Passage

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 is Faustus NOT contemplating in this passage?

Possible Answers:

Leaving Wittenberg in order to accept an opportunity to study in Asia

A comparison of power with piety

The things he could accomplish with the use of occult powers

The validity of academic disciplines when compared to occult practices

The role of his own imagination as compared to external influences in his decision-making

Correct answer:

Leaving Wittenberg in order to accept an opportunity to study in Asia

Explanation:

Faustus is NOT considering leaving Wittenberg in order to accept an opportunity to study in Asia. The latter half of Faustus' speech goes to great lengths to explain that he will no longer be studying conventionally, but will be exploring occult powers. While his early ruminations on what he will do with his power do mention Asia, this is a fantastical listing of potential options, and should not be taken as a legitimate weighing of options.

This is also the most limited and literal of the options. In this speech, Faustus is considering matters of the occult in a broad scope and is broadly dismissing earthly disciplines as a whole, not specific academic postings at different locations.

Example Question #2 : Summarizing, Paraphrasing, And Describing 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.

Which of the following is NOT presented in this passage?

Possible Answers:

Exposition

Insight into a character’s motivations

Characterization

A plea to the audience

Information about which characters are related to one another

Correct answer:

A plea to the audience

Explanation:

Let’s consider what is presented in the passage, starting at the beginning. The passage opens with exposition - a war has ended, and the speaker’s society is now at peace. He doesn’t like this, as he can’t fit in. We are then given some characterization about why he can’t fit in: he was born prematurely. We are then given insight into his motivations: “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.” After this, we are told something about which characters are related to one another in that the speaker refers to “my brother Clarence.” The only answer choice that doesn’t appear in the passage is a plea to the audience. While the passage is constructed like an aside although there are no other characters on stage, and the speaker addresses the audience directly, he never pleads with his listeners or asks them to do anything.

Example Question #3 : Summarizing, Paraphrasing, And Describing 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 says that he has used his magical powers to do all of the following EXCEPT ___________________.

Possible Answers:

cause a solar eclipse

create earthquakes

raise the dead

drown his enemies

change the weather

Correct answer:

drown his enemies

Explanation:

In the final line of the speech, Prospero states, “…I’ll drown my book.” But he says nothing about drowning his enemies. We’re looking for the one answer that is not supported by the text, so “drown his enemies” is correct.

Prospero does mention causing an eclipse (lines 9-10), changing the weather (lines 10-12), creating earthquakes (lines 14-15), and raising the dead (lines 16-17).

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

Example Question #4 : Summarizing, Paraphrasing, And Describing Drama

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 forefinger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies                                                     5
Over men's noses as they lie asleep;
Her wagon spokes made of long spinners' legs,
The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers;
Her traces, of the smallest spider web;
Her collars, of the moonshine's wat'ry beams;                                     10
Her whip, of cricket's bone; the lash, of film;
Her wagoner, a small grey-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Pricked from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazelnut,                                                        15
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o' mind the fairies' coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;
O'er courtiers' knees, that dream on curtsies straight;                           20
O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees;
O'er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are.

(1597)

The imagery in the first fifteen lines of this excerpt emphasizes Queen Mab's __________________.

Possible Answers:

Patience 

Insanity

Ambition

Smallness

Maliciousness 

Correct answer:

Smallness

Explanation:

The images in the first fifteen lines of this excerpt serve primarily to highlight Queen Mab's smallness. We learn that "she comes in shape no bigger than an agate stone
on the forefinger of an alderman," that she can crawl over men's noses, that her wagon wheels are made from spiders' legs and her chariot from an empty hazelnut. There is no evidence to support the other possible answers..

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1597).

Example Question #5 : Summarizing, Paraphrasing, And Describing 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!

Roxane is physically located _________________.

Possible Answers:

Only in Cyrano’s imagination

Far enough away that she can’t hear what Cyrano is saying

Close enough to hold Cyrano’s hand

Beside Cyrano among the trees

Above Cyrano

Correct answer:

Above Cyrano

Explanation:

Lines 18, 19, and 22 tell us that Roxanne is somewhere above Cyrano among leafy tree branches. We know that she is probably invisible to him, because he asks whether she’s trembling and then says that he can feel her doing so (rather than seeing her.) Line 22 tells us that the tremors of Roxane’s hand are coming down through the branches  to reach him. All of this emphasizes Cyrano's worshipful attitude to Roxane: saying she's "throned", and expressing amazement that anything he can do would have the power to affect her.

Example Question #6 : Summarizing, Paraphrasing, And Describing 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!

 

Roxane’s hand is trembling (lines 19-22) most likely because __________________.

Possible Answers:

she is frightened

she is emotionally moved

she is laughing

she is angry

she is disgusted

Correct answer:

she is emotionally moved

Explanation:

Cyrano believes that his eloquence may have touched Roxane emotionally and made her understand his feelings. He hopes that her trembling hands mean that this moment is as significant for her as it is for him. This speech gives us very little further information about what Roxane is doing while Cyrano is talking. All we know is that she doesn't speak or laugh or interrupt him in any way. Therefore we have no reason to think that she's reacting negatively to what he says.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

Please upgrade or download one of the following browsers to use Instant Tutoring: