SAT II Literature : Word Choice and Connotation: Drama

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #11 : Excerpt Purpose In Context

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!

The bolded and underlined excerpt accomplishes which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Facilitates a shift in tone, changing Titus' speech from a bold, impassioned call to arms to a plea for leniency accentuating his own frailty

Changes the focus of Titus' speech from the personal to the political

Facilitates a shift in tone and mode of address, changing Titus' speech from a desperate plea to the tribunes to a resigned monologue directed at off-stage figures

Changes the focus of Titus' speech from the political to the personal

Facilitates a shift in mode of address, changing Titus' speech from a direct address to a soliloquy

Correct answer:

Facilitates a shift in tone and mode of address, changing Titus' speech from a desperate plea to the tribunes to a resigned monologue directed at off-stage figures

Explanation:

After Titus lies down and the tribunes exit the stage, Titus' speech shifts from being a desperate plea being delivered to those with the power to save his children to a resigned monologue directed at off-stage characters. No longer pleading directly, Titus becomes resigned that his sons' "sweet blood will shame" the earth by "staining" it. 

The focus of Titus' speech is always more personal than political. His initial plea to the tribunes was not a bold, impassioned call to arms, and did, in fact, draw upon his own age and frailty. A soliloquy is a speech in which a character speaks to themselves, not an offstage other.

Example Question #1 : Word Choice And Connotation: 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 choice of the word "befriended" near the end of the excerpt has what effect?

Possible Answers:

It signals a shift in Titus' tone from angry and bereft to joyous and relieved. 

It creates irony by humorously jokingly implying that Lucius has allied himself with the tribunes when in fact he has been banished by them.

It signals in shift in tone, as Titus goes from being mournful to angry when he realizes that Lucius is allying himself with the tribunes.

It creates irony by implying that by excluding Lucius from their society, the tribunes are saving him from near-certain death in battle, like Titus' other sons.

It creates irony by implying that by excluding him from their society the tribunes are, paradoxically, doing the most helpful thing they could for Lucius.

Correct answer:

It creates irony by implying that by excluding him from their society the tribunes are, paradoxically, doing the most helpful thing they could for Lucius.

Explanation:

In this context, the choice of "befriended" creates irony by implying that banishing Lucius from city is actually the friendliest thing the tribunes could do for him. Titus' characterization in the next lines of Rome as a "wilderness of tigers" whose only prey is his family carries forward this assertion.

The tribunes' act of banishing Lucius is not intended as a friendly act, and is, in fact, evidence that Lucius has taken up arms against them, not allied with them. Titus' tone remains angry and bereft, even as he ironically celebrates Lucius' banishment. There is no mention of an impending battle to defend Rome, like the ones Titus' previous twenty-two sons died in.

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