SAT II Literature : Tone, Style, and Mood: Seventeenth-Century Drama

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Tone, Style, And Mood: Seventeenth Century Drama

MEPHISTOPHELES: Within the bowels of these elements,

Where we are tortured and remain forever.

Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed

In one self place, for where we are is hell,

And where hell is must we ever be.    (5)

And, to conclude, when all the world dissolves,

And every creature shall be purified,

All places shall be hell that is not heaven.

(1604)

What is the tone of this passage?

Possible Answers:

Cacophonous

Jocose

Grave

Moribund

Venerable

Correct answer:

Grave

Explanation:

This passage discusses torture, punishment, and eternity in somber, serious tones. The passage is certainly not "jocose" (playful, mirthful) or "cacophonous" (clangorous). "Venerable," which means distinguished or respected, is not a word normally applied to a passage’s tone, nor is "moribund," which means dying.

Passage adapted from Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus (1604)

Example Question #2 : Tone, Style, And Mood: Seventeenth Century 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)

Which of the following could not describe the tone of this passage?

Possible Answers:

Gleeful

Furious

Dour

Impassioned

Perverse

Correct answer:

Dour

Explanation:

In this passage, King Lear exhibits a variety of emotions. He is gleeful at the advent of the storm, but he is also furious at mankind – hence his gladness about the destructive storm. This contradictory emotion – joy in the face of destruction – can also said to be perverse. The passage is certainly very impassioned, and it is decisively not "dour" (stern and solemn).

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

Example Question #3 : Tone, Style, And Mood: Seventeenth Century 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 tone of this passage?

Possible Answers:

Diligent

Inimical

Coy

Exasperated

Quizzical

Correct answer:

Exasperated

Explanation:

Based on lines 1-2, we can see that the speaker is clearly fed up with the men he’s addressing: “Peace, you ungracious clamours! peace, rude sounds! / Fools on both sides!” However, in the following lines we can also see that the speaker is fed up with the war he is fighting in. The combination of these frustrations leads to an exasperated tone all around.

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

Example Question #4 : Tone, Style, And Mood: Seventeenth Century 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)

Which line is most self-deprecating?

Possible Answers:

Line 8

Line 6

Line 4

Line 2

Line 10

Correct answer:

Line 8

Explanation:

“I’ll prove this truth with my three drops of blood” serves to emphasize the speaker’s age and, presumably, feebleness. The previous line, line 7, plays a similar role with its use of “wither'd brawn.” However, since line 7 is not an option, line 8 is the best choice.

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

Example Question #5 : Tone, Style, And Mood: Seventeenth Century 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 tone of Nestor’s speech?

Possible Answers:

Enigmatic

Allegorical

Chastised

Acerbic

Resolute

Correct answer:

Resolute

Explanation:

In his speech, Nestor makes it clear that he has little love for cowards. (“But if there be not in our Grecian host / One noble man that hath one spark of fire, / To answer for his love…”) However, he is not actively bitter or acerbic, so resolute is the best choice.

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

Example Question #7 : Summarizing Or Describing 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 best describes Faustus' tone in this passage?

Possible Answers:

Apathetic and morose

Choleric and didactic

Jovial and reverent

Caustic and bitter

Haughty and whimsical

Correct answer:

Haughty and whimsical

Explanation:

The speaker's tone in this passage is best described as haughty and whimsical. The first half of the passage (until the entry of Valdes and Cornelius) functions as Faustus' whimsical imagining of the things he might do with the help of the spirits (or dark arts). His imagining is lengthy and detailed, and shows his willingness to allow his flights of fancy their full depth. His imaginings also, by placing him in a position of unlimited power, hint at his own high self-regard. His tone in the second half shows his own pride and arrogance at his achievements and his intelligence. His renunciations of all other scholars and disciplines shows his low opinion of others.

While he is caustic in his appraisal of the sciences, his tone throughout is more excited about the future than bitter about the past. While he is fairly jovial (or at least pleased with himself), his tone is actively irreverent. Since he is so excited, it would be difficult to characterize his tone as either apathetic or morose. His tone is not didactic since he is mostly speaking to or about himself, and imagining or planning what he will do, he is not giving instructions or trying to teach anyone else.

Example Question #6 : Tone, Style, And Mood: Seventeenth Century 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 tone of this passage can best be described as ________________.

Possible Answers:

violently contemptuous

hieratically commanding

intimately contemplative

ecstatically elated

tearfully reminiscent

Correct answer:

hieratically commanding

Explanation:

The correct answer is “hieratically commanding” — i.e., commanding in a mystical or priest-like style. Even if you don’t know the meaning of “hieratically”, you can still home in on the right answer through the process of elimination. The word “commanding” clearly fits, so that tells you that “hieratically commanding” is a possible correct response. “Intimately contemplative” and “tearfully reminiscent” can be easily eliminated. What about “violently contemptuous”? Prospero describes violence in his first sentence, but it’s all in the past. His second sentence is not violent at all, and there’s nothing contemptuous in the speech. That gets rid of “violently contemptuous.” Though Prospero is probably speaking with a lot of energy, his tone is not elated: we can eliminate “ecstatically elated”. That leaves us with “hieratically commanding” as the correct answer.

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

Example Question #7 : Tone, Style, And Mood: Seventeenth Century Drama

Then, I confess,
Here on my knee, before high heaven and you 
That before you, and next unto high heaven, 
I love your son. 
My friends were poor, but honest; so's my love: 
Be not offended, for it hurts not him 
That he is lov'd of me: I follow him not 
By any token of presumptuous suit; 
Nor would I have him till I do deserve him; 
Yet never know how that desert should be. 
I know I love in vain, strive against hope; 
Yet, in this captious and intenible sieve 
I still pour in the waters of my love, 
And lack not to lose still. Thus, Indian-like, 
Religious in mine error, I adore 
The sun, that looks upon his worshipper, 
But knows of him no more. My dearest madam, 
Let not your hate encounter with my love 
For loving where you do: but, if yourself, 
Whose aged honour cites a virtuous youth, 
Did ever in so true a flame of liking 
Wish chastely and love dearly, that your Dian 
Was both herself and Love; O! then, give pity 
To her, whose state is such that cannot choose 
But lend and give where she is sure to lose; 
That seeks not to find that her search implies, 
But, riddle-like, lives sweetly where she dies.

(1605)

The overall tone of the above passage would best be described as _________________.

Possible Answers:

Cheerful and enamored 

Religious and pessimistic 

Angry and passionate 

Soft-spoken and polite

Reverent and lovesick

Correct answer:

Reverent and lovesick

Explanation:

The tone can best be described as reverent and lovesick, because the speaker uses flattering and respectful language such as "before you, and next unto high heaven," "if yourself, whose aged honor cites a virtuous youth," and "my dearest madam" to address the woman of nobility. The passage also features a lovesick tone, because of language such as "I love your son," "he is loved of me," and "I know I love in vain."

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare's All's Well that Ends Well (1605)

Example Question #8 : Tone, Style, And Mood: Seventeenth Century Drama

Caliban: This island's mine, by Sycorax my mother,

Which thou takest from me. When thou camest first,
Thou strokedst me and madest much of me, wouldst give me
Water with berries in't, and teach me how 
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night: and then I loved thee
And show'd thee all the qualities o' the isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile:
Cursed be I that did so! All the charms 
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!
For I am all the subjects that you have,
Which first was mine own king: and here you sty me
In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me
The rest o' the island. 

Which two words best describe Caliban's attitude towards the addressee of the monologue?

Possible Answers:

Patience and understanding

Anger and resentment

Sarcasm and bitterness

Encouragement and hope

Regret and self-doubt

Correct answer:

Anger and resentment

Explanation:

The two words that best describe Caliban's attitude are resentment and anger. Students who understand the monologue should be able to immediately eliminate the two answers that include positive words (patience and understanding; encouragement and hope). The remaining options all contain negative words but resentment and anger is the best and most accurate answer. There are no words or phrases in the monologue that indicate either sarcasm or self-doubt, which should lead students to eliminate the two remaining incorrect answers.

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

Example Question #9 : Tone, Style, And Mood: Seventeenth Century 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 speaker's tone in this excerpt can best be described as ________________.

Possible Answers:

Fearful 

Reverential 

Spiteful 

Vindictive 

Resigned 

Correct answer:

Reverential 

Explanation:

The speaker describes Queen Mab in a tone of reverence. He highlights the strange and magical qualities of her small stature and seems in awe of her power to influence dreams. Nothing in this excerpt indicates that the speaker is fearful and he uses no negative words to describe Queen Mab that would indicate that he is spiteful or vindictive. There is also no evidence to indicate that the speaker is resigned.

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

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