AP English Literature : Excerpt Meaning in Context

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP English Literature

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Example Questions

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Example Question #31 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from Othello by William Shakespeare (1604)


IAGO: Three great ones of the city,                                                  

In personal suit to make me his lieutenant,

Off-capp'd to him: and, by the faith of man,

I know my price, I am worth no worse a place:

But he; as loving his own pride and purposes,

Evades them, with a bombast circumstance

Horribly stuff'd with epithets of war;

And, in conclusion,

Nonsuits my mediators; for, 'Certes,' says he,

'I have already chose my officer.'

And what was he?

Forsooth, a great arithmetician,

One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,

A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife;

That never set a squadron in the field,

Nor the division of a battle knows

More than a spinster; unless the bookish theoric,

Wherein the toga’d consuls can propose

As masterly as he: mere prattle, without practise,

Is all his soldiership. But he, sir, had the election:

And I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof

At Rhodes, at Cyprus and on other grounds

Christian and heathen, must be be-lee'd and calm'd

By debitor and creditor: this counter-caster,

He, in good time, must his lieutenant be,

And I—God bless the mark!—his Moorship's ancient.

In context, the bolded and underlined phrase “had the election” is best interpreted to mean __________.

Possible Answers:

won the vote

had been granted the postion

had been chosen

rigged the plebiscite

retained his dignity

Correct answer:

had been granted the postion


The correct answer is “had been granted the position.” Here the speaker (Iago) refers to the officer, Michael Cassio, who was chosen over the speaker for a military position. The "he" here refers to Cassio who had (in Shakespearean English "had" is often used to mean "received") the position, or the election to the position.

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