GRE Subject Test: Literature in English : Contexts of Plays

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

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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 #21 : 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.

Which of the following plays is not another example of this genre?

Possible Answers:

Titus Andronicus

Volpone

Hamlet

The Duchess of Malfi

Gorboduc

Correct answer:

Volpone

Explanation:

Main characters spend the play seeking revenge in all of the above works except Ben Jonson’s 1606 satire Volpone, which is a vicious, incisive comedy. While mean-spirited, Volpone is more concerned with satirical skewering than revenge plots.

William Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus (1594) and Hamlet (1603), Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville's Gorboduc (1561), and John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi (1614) were all used as alternative answer options. They are all revenge tragedies.

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

Example Question #22 : Contexts Of British 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.

In addition to Spain, what country is this play set in?

Possible Answers:

Denmark

Portugal

England

France

Greece

Correct answer:

Portugal

Explanation:

The Spanish Tragedy takes place in both Portugal and Spain during the War of Portuguese Succession (1580-1583).

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

Example Question #22 : 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.

Which of the following theater companies could not have performed this play?

Possible Answers:

the Admiral’s Men

the Lord Chamberlain’s Men

Lord Cromwell’s Men

the King’s Men

Lord Strange’s Men

Correct answer:

Lord Cromwell’s Men

Explanation:

Not only is Lord Cromwell’s Men not a real theater company, Oliver Cromwell was decidedly anti-theater. Lord Strange’s Men, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (Shakespeare’s main company), the King’s Men (a later name for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men), and the Admiral’s Men were all Elizabethan theater companies and therefore likely to perform The Spanish Tragedy.

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

Example Question #24 : 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…

In what modern-day country is this play set?

Possible Answers:

Cyprus

England

Italy

Turkey

the Czech Republic

Correct answer:

Italy

Explanation:

Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona, Italy. The setting plays a prominent role, and is frequently mentioned in the play.

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

Example Question #23 : Contexts Of 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 other plays by Shakespeare is set in the same city as this one?

Possible Answers:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Tempest

The Taming of the Shrew

Twelfth Night

Othello

Correct answer:

The Taming of the Shrew

Explanation:

In addition to Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew is also set in Verona, Italy. The Tempest (1611) is set on an unnamed Mediterranean Island. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1605) is set in ancient Athens (and surrounding wilderness). Othello (1604) is set in Venice. Twelfth Night(1602) is set in Illyria.

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

Example Question #23 : 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.

Which of the following is not a common convention of this genre of play?

Possible Answers:

ghosts

meta-theatricality

violence

mummings

insanity

Correct answer:

mummings

Explanation:

In The Spanish Tragedy, we have a play-within-a-play (meta-theatricality), a ghost (who delivers the prologue), violence (murder, war, hanging, stabbing, a letter written in blood), and insanity (Horatio’s mother Isabella goes mad after discovering her dead son’s body). "Mummings," a convention wherein actors dress as plant characters, is an element of medieval drama and not revenge plays.

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

Example Question #1 : Contexts Of British Plays 1660–1925

THE FLOWER GIRL: There's menners f' yer! Te-oo banches o voylets trod into the mad. [She sits down on the plinth of the column, sorting her flowers, on the lady's right. She is not at all an attractive person. She is perhaps eighteen, perhaps twenty, hardly older. She wears a little sailor hat of black straw that has long been exposed to the dust and soot of London and has seldom if ever been brushed. Her hair needs washing rather badly: its mousy color can hardly be natural. She wears a shoddy black coat that reaches nearly to her knees and is shaped to her waist. She has a brown skirt with a coarse apron. Her boots are much the worse for wear. She is no doubt as clean as she can afford to be; but compared to the ladies she is very dirty. Her features are no worse than theirs; but their condition leaves something to be desired; and she needs the services of a dentist].

THE MOTHER: How do you know that my son's name is Freddy, pray?

THE FLOWER GIRL: Ow, eez ye-ooa san, is e? Wal, fewd dan y' de-ooty bawmz a mather should, eed now bettern to spawl a pore gel's flahrzn than ran awy atbaht pyin. Will ye-oo py me f'them? [Here, with apologies, this desperate attempt to represent her dialect without a phonetic alphabet must be abandoned as unintelligible outside London.]

Who is the author of the play from which this passage is adapted?

Possible Answers:

Noel Coward

John Boynton Priestley

Harold Pinter

Oscar Wilde

George Bernard Shaw

Correct answer:

George Bernard Shaw

Explanation:

This is Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.

(Passage adapted from Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, I.26-29 (1916))

Example Question #24 : Contexts Of Plays

THE FLOWER GIRL: There's menners f' yer! Te-oo banches o voylets trod into the mad. [She sits down on the plinth of the column, sorting her flowers, on the lady's right. She is not at all an attractive person. She is perhaps eighteen, perhaps twenty, hardly older. She wears a little sailor hat of black straw that has long been exposed to the dust and soot of London and has seldom if ever been brushed. Her hair needs washing rather badly: its mousy color can hardly be natural. She wears a shoddy black coat that reaches nearly to her knees and is shaped to her waist. She has a brown skirt with a coarse apron. Her boots are much the worse for wear. She is no doubt as clean as she can afford to be; but compared to the ladies she is very dirty. Her features are no worse than theirs; but their condition leaves something to be desired; and she needs the services of a dentist].

THE MOTHER: How do you know that my son's name is Freddy, pray?

THE FLOWER GIRL: Ow, eez ye-ooa san, is e? Wal, fewd dan y' de-ooty bawmz a mather should, eed now bettern to spawl a pore gel's flahrzn than ran awy atbaht pyin. Will ye-oo py me f'them? [Here, with apologies, this desperate attempt to represent her dialect without a phonetic alphabet must be abandoned as unintelligible outside London.]

In what decade was this play first performed?

Possible Answers:

1920s

1940s

1910s

1930s

1900s

Correct answer:

1910s

Explanation:

Pygmalion premiered in 1913.

(Passage adapted from Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, I.26-29 (1916))

Example Question #1 : Contexts Of British Plays 1660–1925

THE FLOWER GIRL: There's menners f' yer! Te-oo banches o voylets trod into the mad. [She sits down on the plinth of the column, sorting her flowers, on the lady's right. She is not at all an attractive person. She is perhaps eighteen, perhaps twenty, hardly older. She wears a little sailor hat of black straw that has long been exposed to the dust and soot of London and has seldom if ever been brushed. Her hair needs washing rather badly: its mousy color can hardly be natural. She wears a shoddy black coat that reaches nearly to her knees and is shaped to her waist. She has a brown skirt with a coarse apron. Her boots are much the worse for wear. She is no doubt as clean as she can afford to be; but compared to the ladies she is very dirty. Her features are no worse than theirs; but their condition leaves something to be desired; and she needs the services of a dentist].

THE MOTHER: How do you know that my son's name is Freddy, pray?

THE FLOWER GIRL: Ow, eez ye-ooa san, is e? Wal, fewd dan y' de-ooty bawmz a mather should, eed now bettern to spawl a pore gel's flahrzn than ran awy atbaht pyin. Will ye-oo py me f'them? [Here, with apologies, this desperate attempt to represent her dialect without a phonetic alphabet must be abandoned as unintelligible outside London.]

Which hit American Broadway musical was based on this play?

Possible Answers:

West Side Story

Show Boat!

Porgy and Bess

The King and I

My Fair Lady 

Correct answer:

My Fair Lady 

Explanation:

My Fair Lady, written in 1956 by Lerner and Loewe, is by far the most famous adaptation of Pygmalion.

(Passage adapted from Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, I.26-29 (1916))

Example Question #1 : Contexts Of British Plays 1660–1925

THE FLOWER GIRL: There's menners f' yer! Te-oo banches o voylets trod into the mad. [She sits down on the plinth of the column, sorting her flowers, on the lady's right. She is not at all an attractive person. She is perhaps eighteen, perhaps twenty, hardly older. She wears a little sailor hat of black straw that has long been exposed to the dust and soot of London and has seldom if ever been brushed. Her hair needs washing rather badly: its mousy color can hardly be natural. She wears a shoddy black coat that reaches nearly to her knees and is shaped to her waist. She has a brown skirt with a coarse apron. Her boots are much the worse for wear. She is no doubt as clean as she can afford to be; but compared to the ladies she is very dirty. Her features are no worse than theirs; but their condition leaves something to be desired; and she needs the services of a dentist].

THE MOTHER: How do you know that my son's name is Freddy, pray?

THE FLOWER GIRL: Ow, eez ye-ooa san, is e? Wal, fewd dan y' de-ooty bawmz a mather should, eed now bettern to spawl a pore gel's flahrzn than ran awy atbaht pyin. Will ye-oo py me f'them? [Here, with apologies, this desperate attempt to represent her dialect without a phonetic alphabet must be abandoned as unintelligible outside London.]

The title of this play is taken from which ancient Greek work?

Possible Answers:

The Oresteia

The Iliad

Lysistrata

Metamorphoses

The Odyssey

Correct answer:

Metamorphoses

Explanation:

Pygmalion is a character in Ovid’s Metamorphoses—specifically, an artist who falls in love with a beautiful ivory statue he’s sculpted.

(Passage adapted from Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, I.26-29 (1916))

All GRE Subject Test: Literature in English Resources

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