GRE Subject Test: Literature in English : Identification of American Plays

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All GRE Subject Test: Literature in English Resources

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Identification Of American Plays Before 1925

Several American plays have been considered “firsts”—the first American play, the first professionally produced American play, the first American play written by an African-American, or even the first play by a “professional” American playwright. Which of the following works cannot claim ANY of these distinctions?

Possible Answers:

Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral by Phillis Wheatley

The Drama of King Shotaway unknown

The Prince of Parthia by Thomas Godfrey

Andre by Robert Dunlap

Androboros by Robert Hunter

Correct answer:

Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral by Phillis Wheatley

Explanation:

Although Phillis Wheatley was indeed the first published African-American writer and woman, she did not write plays. As the title of her publication indicates, she wrote poetry.

Example Question #1 : Identification Of American Plays Before 1925

This early American political writer and satirist wrote several highly critical and controversial plays about Revolutionary-era politics: The Adulateur, The Defeat, and The Group. Who is the playwright in question?

Possible Answers:

Anne Bradstreet

Mercy Otis Warren

Sojourner Truth

John Smith

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Correct answer:

Mercy Otis Warren

Explanation:

This writer is Mercy Otis Warren, who eschewed cultural norms and wrote about war, politics, and ethical matters—all subjects at the time thought to be in the realm of men. Other plays by Warren include The Ladies of Castille and The Sack of Rome, which concern ideals of liberty and morality in the early United States.

Example Question #2 : Identification Of American Plays Before 1925

Which of the following was not likely to be seen in pre-twentieth-century American theater?

Possible Answers:

Blackface

Boycotts or bans by religious institutions

Racy burlesque acts

American actors performing “imported” British dramas such as Richard III or The Merchant of Venice

Jazz poetry

Correct answer:

Jazz poetry

Explanation:

Of all the options listed above, only jazz poetry developed after 1900.

Example Question #1 : Identification Of American Plays

Blanche DuBois, Stella Kowalski, and Harold Mitchell are major characters from which of the following plays?

Possible Answers:

Death of a Salesman

A Streetcar Named Desire

Our Town

Twelve Angry Men

Mourning Becomes Electra

Correct answer:

A Streetcar Named Desire

Explanation:

These are central characters in Tennessee Williams' 1947 American play, A Streetcar Named Desire. The plot follows Blanche Dubois who abandons her previous life of aristocracy after a series of personal failures to live with her brother and sister-in-law in New Orleans. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948.

Example Question #2 : Identification Of American Plays

Mary Cavan Tyrone, James Tyrone, and Cathleen are main characters in which of the following American plays?

Possible Answers:

The Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

‘night Mother

A Raisin in the Sun

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Six Degrees of Separation

Correct answer:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Explanation:

Mary Cavan Tyrone, James Tyrone, and Cathleen are primary characters in Eugene O'Neill's 1956 play, Long Day's Journey Into Night. It is a drama written in four parts between 1941 and 1942. It was the Pulitzer Prize winner in 1957.

Example Question #146 : Gre Subject Test: Literature In English

Which of the following is an English-language opera that tells the story of a black beggar and his lover in Charleston, South Carolina and is often discussed in terms of its racial significance and shortcomings?

Possible Answers:

Porgy and Bess

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

West Side Story

Show Boat

Anything Goes

Correct answer:

Porgy and Bess

Explanation:

This question describes the 1934 Porgy and Bess, first performed in New York City by a controversial cast of all-African-American singers. The play is known for its jazz style, its famous song “Summertime” (since covered by many performers), and for its questionable perpetuation of racial stereotypes. It has gone in and out of fashion for the eighty years since its debut. The play introduces important questions such as the role of the black performer in theater and the use of stereotypes by white composers.

Example Question #1 : Identification Of American Plays After 1925

Who is the author of the canonical American play The Crucible?

Possible Answers:

Tennessee Williams

Tom Stoppard

Arthur Miller

Eugene O’Neill

David Mamet

Correct answer:

Arthur Miller

Explanation:

The author is Arthur Miller, and the play, written in 1953, concerns the late-seventeenth-century Salem witch trials in the Massachusetts Bay province of America. The play is intended as an allegory of the 1950s Red Scare and McCarthyism, when the U.S. government became paranoid about the possibility of communism infiltrating the country. As a result of the play (which includes characters such as Abigail Williams, John and Elizabeth Proctor, Tituba, Mary William, Giles Corey, and Reverend Samuel Parris), Miller was questioned by the House Un-American Activities Committee and charged with contempt of Congress.

Example Question #2 : Identification Of American Plays After 1925

Which Tennessee Williams “memory play” features the reminisces of Tom, the protagonist, about three other characters and is renowned for its examination of family ties and mental illness?

Possible Answers:

The Glass Menagerie

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Candles to the Sun

A Streetcar Named Desire

Not About Nightingales

Correct answer:

The Glass Menagerie

Explanation:

The play in question is Williams’ 1944 play The Glass Menagerie. The play features narrator Tom Wingfield; matriarch Amanda Wingfield, whose husband abandoned the family and whose glory days as a Southern debutante have long faded; the cripplingly shy Laura Wingfield, Tom’s sister and Amanda’s daughter; and the deceitful prospective suitor Jim O’Connor.

Example Question #3 : Identification Of American Plays After 1925

Which of the following works is based on a play by William Shakespeare?

Possible Answers:

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

A Raisin in the Sun

West Side Story

A Streetcar Named Desire 

Angels in America

Correct answer:

West Side Story

Explanation:

Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s West Side Story is based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Originally performed on Broadway in 1957, the musical is set in a neighborhood of immigrants in New York City’s Upper West Side. Like Romeo and Juliet, it includes themes such as love, death, loyalty, and family, but it is also concerned with tensions between immigrants and native citizens in America during the 1950s.

Example Question #1 : Identification Of American Plays After 1925

Which American playwright is known for works such as Long Day’s Journey Into Night, The Iceman Cometh, and Mourning Becomes Electra?

Possible Answers:

Neil Simon

Eugene O’Neill

Tennessee Williams

Tom Stoppard

David Mamet

Correct answer:

Eugene O’Neill

Explanation:

The playwright who wrote the plays listed is Eugene O’Neill, a native of New York City and a recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature. O’Neill is widely regarded as one of the most important dramatists in twentieth-century America, and his work makes use of American vernacular, characters who are outcasts or misfits, and a stark, sometimes relentless realism.

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