AP English Literature : Summarizing, Describing, or Paraphrasing Excerpts

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP English Literature

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

1 3 Next →

Example Question #31 : Meaning Of Specified Text

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!

Which of the following most closely summarizes the content of the bolded and underlined excerpt?

Possible Answers:

Titus begs the tribunes to spare his condemned sons because they are completely innocent. After the tribunes reject him, he goes into an extended comparison between the tribunes and silent rocks.

Titus begs the tribunes to spare his two condemned sons. He claims that he never cried for his twenty-two other sons who died honorably, but he will mourn for these two, who have been sentenced to death.

Titus begs the tribunes to spare his two condemned sons. He claims that he would not weep for these sons if they died honorably, as they are adults in their twenties, but he would weep and mourn for them if they were sentenced to death.

Titus begs the tribunes to spare his condemned sons because they are completely innocent. He notes that he has had two twenty-year old sons die in battle, and both of these young, now honored men, were less pure of heart than his condemned sons.

Titus begs the tribunes to spare his condemned sons. He says that he has wept for and mourned the death of twenty-two of his sons, even though they all died honorably in battle, but he would feel a depth of sadness he has never before known for the sons condemned to die. 

Correct answer:

Titus begs the tribunes to spare his two condemned sons. He claims that he never cried for his twenty-two other sons who died honorably, but he will mourn for these two, who have been sentenced to death.

Explanation:

The answer that most closely summarized the content of the excerpt is "Titus begs the tribunes to spare his two condemned sons. He claims that he never cried for his twenty-two other sons who died honorably, but he will mourn for these two, who have been sentenced to death." In this context, "two and twenty" means twenty-two, so Titus is, indeed, stating that he has lost twenty-two sons in battle, for whom he "has never wept" because they died honorably in battle defending Rome. 

While Titus does claim that his sons' "souls are not corrupted as 'tis thought," this is not the central aspect of his argument against their being sentenced to death; rather, he leans heavily on his own sadness and past sacrifices for Rome. He does not compare the quality of his twenty-two dead sons to his current condemned ones, only the nature of their demises and his reaction to those demises; he never cried for the sons who died honorably.

1 3 Next →
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors