GRE Subject Test: Literature in English : Contexts of Plays

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GRE Subject Test: Literature in English

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

All GRE Subject Test: Literature in English Resources

1 Diagnostic Test 158 Practice Tests Question of the Day Flashcards Learn by Concept

Example Questions

Example Question #421 : Cultural And Historical Contexts

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,

And what strength I have’s mine own,

Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,

I must be here confined by you,

Or sent to Naples. Let me not,

Since I have my dukedom got,

And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell

In this bare island by your spell;

But release me from my bands

With the help of your good hands…

When was this play first published?

Possible Answers:

Correct answer:

Explanation:

The Tempest was first published in 1623 in the First Folio. Many scholars believe that it is the last play Shakespeare wrote. The play was probably first performed in 1611, but was not published until 1623.

Example Question #12 : Contexts Of British Plays To 1660

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,

And what strength I have’s mine own,

Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,

I must be here confined by you,

Or sent to Naples. Let me not,

Since I have my dukedom got,

And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell

In this bare island by your spell;

But release me from my bands

With the help of your good hands…

Which of the following dystopian novels takes its title from a line in this play?

Possible Answers:

Lord of the Flies

1984

A Clockwork Orange

Brave New World

Catch-22

Correct answer:

Brave New World

Explanation:

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) takes its title from lines that Miranda speaks in Act V scene 1 of the play: “Oh, wonder! / How many goodly creatures are there here! / How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, / That has such people in ’t!”

Joseph Heller's Catch 22 (1961), Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange (1962), George Orwell's 1984 (1949), and William Golding's Lord of the Flies (1954) were all used as alternate answer choices.

Example Question #11 : Contexts Of British Plays

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,

And what strength I have’s mine own,

Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,

I must be here confined by you,

Or sent to Naples. Let me not,

Since I have my dukedom got,

And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell

In this bare island by your spell;

But release me from my bands

With the help of your good hands…

Which Caribbean writer wrote a 1969 post-colonial play based on this work?

Possible Answers:

Jamaica Kincaid

Derek Walcott

Jean Rhys

Aimé Cesairé

Kamau Brathwaite

Correct answer:

Aimé Cesairé

Explanation:

The work in question is Martinican writer Aimé Cesairé’s Une Tempête (A Tempest) (1969). This play uses Shakespeare’s original characters but rewrites the work in order to investigate and deconstruct race, power, and colonialism.

Example Question #14 : Contexts Of British Plays To 1660

To be thus is nothing,

    But to be safely thus. Our fears in Banquo.

    Stick deep, and in his royalty of nature

    Reigns that which would be fear’d. ‘Tis much he dares,

    And, to that dauntless temper of his mind,

    He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valor

    To act in safety. There is none but he

    Whose being I do fear; and under him

    My genius is rebuked, as it is said

    Mark Antony’s was by Caesar.

In what decade was this play written?

Possible Answers:

1590s

1580s

1620s

1610s

1600s

Correct answer:

1600s

Explanation:

Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in 1606. The play was first performed in 1611, and first published in 1623. 

Example Question #15 : Contexts Of British Plays To 1660

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 fore-finger of an alderman,

Drawn with a team of little atomies

Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep;

Her waggon-spokes made of long spinners' legs,

The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,

The traces of the smallest spider's web,

The collars of the moonshine's watery beams…

Who is the author of this play?

Possible Answers:

Thomas Kyd

Christopher Marlowe

Thomas Middleton

Ben Jonson

William Shakespeare 

Correct answer:

William Shakespeare 

Explanation:

This is Mercutio’s famous monologue in William Shakespeare’s 1597 The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (1597)

Example Question #431 : Cultural And Historical Contexts

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 fore-finger of an alderman,

Drawn with a team of little atomies

Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep;

Her waggon-spokes made of long spinners' legs,

The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,

The traces of the smallest spider's web,

The collars of the moonshine's watery beams…

This play is based in part on a work by which English author?

Possible Answers:

Geoffrey Chaucer

Christophe Marlowe

John Fletcher

Thomas Kyd

Arthur Brooke

Correct answer:

Arthur Brooke

Explanation:

Although the story of Romeo and Juliet can be traced through multiple decades and countries, the direct inspiration for Shakespeare’s version was Arthur Brooke’s long, poorly received narrative poem The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet (1562).

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (1597)

Example Question #11 : Contexts Of British Plays

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 fore-finger of an alderman,

Drawn with a team of little atomies

Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep;

Her waggon-spokes made of long spinners' legs,

The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,

The traces of the smallest spider's web,

The collars of the moonshine's watery beams…

Which of the following films or plays is not based on this play?

Possible Answers:

Angels in America

Killer Joe

West Side Story

Shakespeare in Love

The Bad Infinity

Correct answer:

Angels in America

Explanation:

Only Tony Kushner’s 1993 play Angels in America does not follow the storyline of Romeo and Juliet (1597). All the other works adopt the tragic story of two lovers whose families are sworn enemies, employing different character names and settings to investigate many of the same themes.

The similarities and resonances between Shakespeare in Love (1998) do not extend far past the use of Shakespeare's name in the title.

Arthur Laurents's West Side Story(1961), Tracy Letts' Killer Joe (1993), and Mac Wellman's Bad Infinity (1983) were all used as alternative answer choices.

Example Question #11 : Contexts Of Plays

KING: … Hieronimo, it greatly pleaseth us

    That in our victory thou have a share

    By virtue of thy worthy son’s exploit.

… Bring hither the young prince of Portingale!

    The rest march on, but, ere they be dismissed,

    We will bestow on every soldier

    Two ducats, and on every leader ten,

    That they may know our largesse welcomes them.

                  Exeunt all [the army] but BALTHAZAR,

                  LORENZO, and HORATIO.

Who is the author of this play?

Possible Answers:

William Shakespeare

Thomas Kyd

Christopher Marlowe

Ben Jonson

Thomas Middleton

Correct answer:

Thomas Kyd

Explanation:

This is Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, or Hieronimo is Mad Again. The presence of several main characters (Hieronimo, Lorenzo, Balthazar, and Horatio) in these lines is the main clue to determining the identity of the work.

Passage adapted from Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy (1587)

Example Question #19 : Contexts Of British Plays To 1660

KING: … Hieronimo, it greatly pleaseth us

    That in our victory thou have a share

    By virtue of thy worthy son’s exploit.

… Bring hither the young prince of Portingale!

    The rest march on, but, ere they be dismissed,

    We will bestow on every soldier

    Two ducats, and on every leader ten,

    That they may know our largesse welcomes them.

                  Exeunt all [the army] but BALTHAZAR,

                  LORENZO, and HORATIO.

When was this play first published?

Possible Answers:

1600s

1590s

1570s

1580s

1570s

Correct answer:

1580s

Explanation:

The Spanish Tragedy was first performed in 1587, and it was written during the 1580s (exact date uncertain, it was a long time ago).

Passage adapted from Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy (1587)

Example Question #12 : Contexts Of British Plays To 1660

KING: … Hieronimo, it greatly pleaseth us

    That in our victory thou have a share

    By virtue of thy worthy son’s exploit.

… Bring hither the young prince of Portingale!

    The rest march on, but, ere they be dismissed,

    We will bestow on every soldier

    Two ducats, and on every leader ten,

    That they may know our largesse welcomes them.

                  Exeunt all [the army] but BALTHAZAR,

                  LORENZO, and HORATIO.

What genre of play is this?

Possible Answers:

Restoration comedy

blackface minstrel

mystery

revenge

morality

Correct answer:

revenge

Explanation:

Revenge plays are works typically written during the Elizabethan and early Jacobean periods wherein a protagonist seeks vengeance, pursuing a path that often leads to madness and/or ruin. The Spanish Tragedy features the character Hieronimo’s attempts to avenge his son Horatio, who was killed by Lorenzo, the scheming nephew of the king of Portugal.

Passage adapted from Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy (1587)

All GRE Subject Test: Literature in English Resources

1 Diagnostic Test 158 Practice Tests Question of the Day Flashcards Learn by Concept
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors