SAT II Literature : Form, Structure, Grammar, and Syntax

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #3 : Grammar And Syntax: Drama

PROSPERO:

  1.     Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves,
  2.     And ye that on the sands with printless foot
  3.     Do chase the ebbing Neptune and do fly him
  4.     When he comes back; you demi-puppets that
  5.     By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,
  6.     Whereof the ewe not bites, and you whose pastime
  7.     Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice
  8.     To hear the solemn curfew; by whose aid,
  9.     Weak masters though ye be, I have bedimm'd
  10.     The noontide sun, call'd forth the mutinous winds,
  11.     And 'twixt the green sea and the azured vault
  12.     Set roaring war: to the dread rattling thunder
  13.     Have I given fire and rifted Jove's stout oak
  14.     With his own bolt; the strong-based promontory
  15.     Have I made shake and by the spurs pluck'd up
  16.     The pine and cedar: graves at my command
  17.     Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let 'em forth
  18.     By my so potent art. But this rough magic
  19.     I here abjure, and, when I have required
  20.     Some heavenly music, which even now I do,
  21.     To work mine end upon their senses that
  22.     This airy charm is for, I'll break my staff,
  23.     Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
  24.     And deeper than did ever plummet sound
  25.     I'll drown my book.

The passage’s point of view can be characterized as ________________.

Possible Answers:

second person only

third person only

first person and second person only

 second and third person only

first person only

Correct answer:

first person and second person only

Explanation:

Prospero uses first and second person quite a lot. (“I have bedimm’d…” and “Ye elves…”) That means we can immediately eliminate three answer choices: “first person only”, “second person only”, and “third person only”. If we’re clear on how important first person is in this speech, we can eliminate “second and third person only” as well. The tricky part here is that Prospero does use the third person to a very limited extent. (“graves at my command/ Have waked their sleepers…”) But “first, second, and third person” is not one of the answer choices. First and second person appear far more than third person, so that’s the best answer.

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

Example Question #4 : Grammar And Syntax: Drama

PROSPERO:

  1.     Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves,
  2.     And ye that on the sands with printless foot
  3.     Do chase the ebbing Neptune and do fly him
  4.     When he comes back; you demi-puppets that
  5.     By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,
  6.     Whereof the ewe not bites, and you whose pastime
  7.     Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice
  8.     To hear the solemn curfew; by whose aid,
  9.     Weak masters though ye be, I have bedimm'd
  10.     The noontide sun, call'd forth the mutinous winds,
  11.     And 'twixt the green sea and the azured vault
  12.     Set roaring war: to the dread rattling thunder
  13.     Have I given fire and rifted Jove's stout oak
  14.     With his own bolt; the strong-based promontory
  15.     Have I made shake and by the spurs pluck'd up
  16.     The pine and cedar: graves at my command
  17.     Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let 'em forth
  18.     By my so potent art. But this rough magic
  19.     I here abjure, and, when I have required
  20.     Some heavenly music, which even now I do,
  21.     To work mine end upon their senses that
  22.     This airy charm is for, I'll break my staff,
  23.     Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
  24.     And deeper than did ever plummet sound
  25.     I'll drown my book.

The syntax of the passage is characterized by __________________.

Possible Answers:

incomplete thoughts

a shift from simple to elaborate

sententious repetition

complex sentences

expressive ellipsis

Correct answer:

complex sentences

Explanation:

This entire speech consists of two complex sentences. It does not contain incomplete thoughts or omissions (ellipses.) It doesn’t move from simple to elaborate: the first lines are already grand and imposing, while the last half-line (“I’ll drown my book”) is most striking because of its simplicity. There are repeated themes and ideas — the list of supernatural spirits, the catalogue of natural cataclysms — but the effect is not sententious (that is, it’s not banal or pompous.)


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

Example Question #5 : Grammar And Syntax: Drama

Passage adapted from Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (1897)
Translated by Gladys Thomas and Mary F. Guillemard (in public domain)

[Cyrano speaks to Roxane.]

CYRANO:

  1. Ay, true, the feeling
  2. Which fills me, terrible and jealous, truly
  3. Love,--which is ever sad amid its transports!
  4. Love,--and yet, strangely, not a selfish passion!
  5. I for your joy would gladly lay mine own down,
  6. --E'en though you never were to know it,--never!
  7. --If but at times I might--far off and lonely,--
  8. Hear some gay echo of the joy I bought you!
  9. Each glance of thine awakes in me a virtue,--
  10. A novel, unknown valor. Dost begin, sweet,
  11. To understand? So late, dost understand me?
  12. Feel'st thou my soul, here, through the darkness mounting?
  13. Too fair the night! Too fair, too fair the moment!
  14. That I should speak thus, and that you should hearken!
  15. Too fair! In moments when my hopes rose proudest,
  16. I never hoped such guerdon. Naught is left me
  17. But to die now! Have words of mine the power
  18. To make you tremble,--throned there in the branches?
  19. Ay, like a leaf among the leaves, you tremble!
  20. You tremble! For I feel,--an if you will it,
  21. Or will it not,--your hand's beloved trembling
  22. Thrill through the branches, down your sprays of jasmine!

In this context, the word “sweet” (line 10) is _____________.

Possible Answers:

an adjective

a conjunction

an adverb

a noun

an attributive

Correct answer:

a noun

Explanation:

Here, “sweet” is a noun. It is the name that Cyrano is calling Roxane. “Dost begin, sweet,/ To understand?” means, “Are you beginning to understand, sweetheart?” (The pronoun “thou” is implied.)

Cyrano starts out addressing Roxane as "you": the more formal form of the pronoun in those days, in the same way that modern French "vous" is more formal than "tu". In line 9, he switches to "thou":

"Each glance of thine awakes in me a virtue . . ."

This suggests that he's getting more emotional and feeling closer to Roxane.

In the next line, he's still using the familiar form, which is a big clue that "sweet" is an endearment.

Example Question #1 : Grammar And Syntax: Drama

Passage adapted from Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (1897)
Translated by Gladys Thomas and Mary F. Guillemard (in public domain)

[Cyrano speaks to Roxane.]

CYRANO:

  1. Ay, true, the feeling
  2. Which fills me, terrible and jealous, truly
  3. Love,--which is ever sad amid its transports!
  4. Love,--and yet, strangely, not a selfish passion!
  5. I for your joy would gladly lay mine own down,
  6. --E'en though you never were to know it,--never!
  7. --If but at times I might--far off and lonely,--
  8. Hear some gay echo of the joy I bought you!
  9. Each glance of thine awakes in me a virtue,--
  10. A novel, unknown valor. Dost begin, sweet,
  11. To understand? So late, dost understand me?
  12. Feel'st thou my soul, here, through the darkness mounting?
  13. Too fair the night! Too fair, too fair the moment!
  14. That I should speak thus, and that you should hearken!
  15. Too fair! In moments when my hopes rose proudest,
  16. I never hoped such guerdon. Naught is left me
  17. But to die now! Have words of mine the power
  18. To make you tremble,--throned there in the branches?
  19. Ay, like a leaf among the leaves, you tremble!
  20. You tremble! For I feel,--an if you will it,
  21. Or will it not,--your hand's beloved trembling
  22. Thrill through the branches, down your sprays of jasmine!

The adjective “throned” (line 18) describes which noun/pronoun?

Possible Answers:

Cyrano’s power

Leaves

Cyrano’s words

“You” — i.e., Roxane

Cyrano

Correct answer:

“You” — i.e., Roxane

Explanation:

“You” is the pronoun described by “throned”. “Have words of mine the power/To make you tremble,--throned there in the branches?” In other words, “Do my words have the power to make you tremble, you who are sitting on a throne above me?”

This image emphasized Cyrano's worshipful attitude toward Roxane. It's as if he's asking, "Could any humble words of MINE have the power to rise up and affect YOU, who are so far above me?"

Example Question #41 : Literary Analysis

Thou ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain,
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad, expos’d to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could:
I wash’d thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobling then is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun cloth, i’ th’ house I find.
In this array ’mongst vulgars mayst thou roam.
In critics' hands, beware thou dost not come;
And take thy way where yet thou art not known,
If for thy father askt, say, thou hadst none:
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caus’d her thus to send thee out of door.

The poetic form that Bradstreet uses in this poem is __________.

Possible Answers:

heroic couplets

sonnet

sestina

None of the other answers is correct

blank verse

Correct answer:

heroic couplets

Explanation:

The poem is written in heroic couplets, which are rhymed pairs of lines in iambic pentameter.  The poem would only be in blank verse if the iambic pentameter lines did not rhyme.  The poem is also too long and in the wrong form to be a sonnet and is too short to be a sestina.

Passage adapted from "The Author to Her Book" by Anne Bradstreet (1678)

Example Question #2 : Structure And Form: Poetry

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree

    Toward heaven still,

    And there's a barrel that I didn't fill

    Beside it, and there may be two or three

    Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.

    But I am done with apple-picking now.

    Essence of winter sleep is on the night,

    The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.

What rhyme scheme is this?

Possible Answers:

Blank verse

Free verse

Sprung rhythm

None of these

Heroic verse

Correct answer:

Free verse

Explanation:

Free verse describes poetry that does not have a particular rhyme scheme or meter, and that is the case with this poem. Blank verse refers to unrhymed iambic pentameter, and heroic verse refers to rhymed couplets of iambic pentameter. Sprung rhythm is a pattern designed to mimic the cadences of natural spoken speech.

Passage adapted from Robert Frost’s “After Apple-Picking.” North of Boston. (1915)

Example Question #3 : Structure And Form: Poetry

1 Those lines that I before have writ do lie,

  Even those that said I could not love you dearer;

  Yet then my judgment knew no reason why

  My most full flame should afterwards burn clearer.

5 But reckoning Time, whose million'd accidents 

  Creep in 'twixt vows and change decrees of kings, 

  Tan sacred beauty, blunt the sharp'st intents, 

  Divert strong minds to the course of altering things;

9 Alas, why, fearing of Time's tyranny, 

  Might I not then say 'Now I love you best,' 

  When I was certain o'er incertainty, 

  Crowning the present, doubting of the rest?

13 Love is a babe; then might I not say so,

   To give full growth to that which still doth grow? 

(1609)

The form of this poem is best described as ______________.

Possible Answers:

monologue

terza rima

villanelle

ballad

sonnet

Correct answer:

sonnet

Explanation:

This is a sonnet.  Specifically, it is a Shakespearean sonnet, a type of sonnet which follows these specifications:  it is written in iambic pentameter, has fourteen lines, and employs the rhyme scheme ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.  

A monologue is a long speech delivered by a single character in a play. 

Terza rima is a rhyme scheme of ABA, BCB, CDC, and so on, which is most commonly found in Italian.  

A ballad is a narrative poem with stanzas of two or four lines.  They often include a refrain and are frequently meant to be sung.  

A villanelle is a poem of nineteen lines with the rhyme scheme ABA, ABA, ABA, ABA, ABA, ABAA.  The first and third lines of the first stanza repeat throughout the poem and reappear together in the final stanza.

Passage adapted from Shakespeare's "Sonnet 115" (1609)

Example Question #4 : Structure And Form: Poetry

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,

  Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,

  Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,

  Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.

  Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean

  Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.

(1847)

What meter does this poem employ?

Possible Answers:

Dactylic hexameter

Trochaic pentameter

Spondaic hexameter

Dithyrambic tetrameter

Iambic pentameter

Correct answer:

Dactylic hexameter

Explanation:

This is one of the English language’s best known examples of dactylic hexameter. This meter involves six pairs of one long and two short syllables (although the occasionally deviates from this scheme for the sake of sense and sound). Dactylic hexameter is also sometimes known as heroic hexameter.

Passage adapted from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Evangeline.” (1847)

Example Question #5 : Structure And Form: Poetry

In pious times, e’r Priest-craft did begin,

Before Polygamy was made a Sin;

When Man on many multipli’d his kind,

E’r one to one was cursedly confin’d,

When Nature prompted and no Law deni’d   (5)      

Promiscuous Use of Concubine and Bride;

Then Israel’s Monarch, after Heavens own heart,

His vigorous warmth did, variously, impart

To Wives and Slaves: And, wide as his Command,

Scatter’d his Maker’s Image through the Land.    (10)

(1681)

What is the rhyme scheme of this poem?

Possible Answers:

Spondaic pentameter

Free verse

Dactylic pentameter

Heroic couplets

Blank verse

Correct answer:

Heroic couplets

Explanation:

The passage exhibits rhymed pairs of iambic pentameter, which is also known as heroic couplets. (In the case of satirical or ironic couplets, the form is often referred to as a “mock heroic.”) Don’t confuse this with blank verse, which is the use of unrhymed iambic pentameter.

Passage adapted from “Absalom and Achitophel,” by John Dryden (1681)

Example Question #6 : Structure And Form: Poetry

As I was going down impassive Rivers,

I no longer felt myself guided by haulers:

Yelping redskins had taken them as targets

And had nailed them naked to colored stakes.

 

I was indifferent to all crews, (5)

The bearer of Flemish wheat or English cottons

When with my haulers this uproar stopped

The Rivers let me go where I wanted.

 

Into the furious lashing of the tides

More heedless than children's brains the other winter    (10)

I ran! And loosened Peninsulas

Have not undergone a more triumphant hubbub…

What rhyme scheme does this passage employ?

Possible Answers:

Blank verse

Heroic couplets

Free verse

Sprung rhythm

Quatrains

Correct answer:

Quatrains

Explanation:

This poem demonstrates the use of quatrains, four-line units of poetry. Sprung rhythm is a pattern designed to mimic the cadences of natural spoken speech, while heroic couplets are the use of rhyming pairs of iambic pentameter. Blank verse refers to unrhymed iambic pentameter, and heroic verse refers to rhymed couplets of iambic pentameter. Free verse describes poetry that does not have a particular rhyme scheme or meter.

Passage adapted from Arthur Rimbaud’s “The Drunken Boat,” (1920)

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