SAT II Literature : Context-Based Meaning of a Word: Drama

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

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Example Question #11 : Context Based Meaning Of A Word: Drama

Caliban: This island's mine, by Sycorax my mother,

Which thou takest from me. When thou camest first,
Thou strokedst me and madest much of me, wouldst give me
Water with berries in't, and teach me how 
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night: and then I loved thee
And show'd thee all the qualities o' the isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile:
Cursed be I that did so! All the charms 
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!
For I am all the subjects that you have,
Which first was mine own king: and here you sty me
In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me
The rest o' the island. 

Based on context clues, the most accurate definition for the word "sty" is __________________.

Possible Answers:

starve

keep

enslave

capture

forget

Correct answer:

keep

Explanation:

The word sty most closely means "to keep," as a farmer would keep pigs in a sty. Although the other possible answers are all somehow related to Caliban's plight, there is no reason to believe, based on the available text, that sty means capture, enslave, starve, or forget. If you substitute keep for sty (here you keep me in this hard rock) the line maintains it's original meaning. The other possible answers, when plugged into the original line, sound awkward or meaningless.

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare's The Tempest (1611).

Example Question #12 : Context Based Meaning Of A Word: Drama

ROMEO [To a Servingman]

1 What lady is that, which doth enrich the hand
2 Of yonder knight?

SERVANT

I know not, sir.

ROMEO

3 O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
4 It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
5 Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear;
6 Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!
7 So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows,
8 As yonder lady o'er her fellows shows.
9 The measure done, I'll watch her place of stand,
10 And, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand.
11 Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight!
12 For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.

TYBALT

13 This, by his voice, should be a Montague.
14 Fetch me my rapier, boy. What dares the slave
15 Come hither, cover'd with an antic face,
16 To fleer and scorn at our solemnity?
17 Now, by the stock and honour of my kin,
18 To strike him dead, I hold it not a sin.

Based on context, what is the likeliest meaning of the word "fleer" (line 16)?

Possible Answers:

Dance

Fight

Admire

Weep

Sneer

Correct answer:

Sneer

Explanation:

Tybalt is extremely angry at Romeo, so to "fleer" must be to do something offensive or disrespectful. Certainly, it cannot be something respectful or harmless, such as to "admire" or "dance." Another clue to the meaning of this word is that it appears in a pair with the verb to "scorn." Therefore, we can conclude that to "fleer" means something similar to "scorn." Indeed, to "sneer," or to smile or laugh mockingly, is an acceptable definition of this unusual word.

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1595)

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