SAT II Literature : Inferences: Drama

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Inferences And Implied Ideas

Adapted from Act 1, Scene 1, ln. 78-119 of The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe (1604) in Vol. XIX, Part 2 of The Harvard Classics (1909-1914)


FAUST: How am I glutted with conceit of this!

Shall I make spirits fetch me what I please,

Resolve me of all ambiguities,

Perform what desperate enterprise I will?

I’ll have them fly to India for gold,

Ransack the ocean for orient pearl,

And search all corners of the new-found world

For pleasant fruits and princely delicates;

I’ll have them read me strange philosophy

And tell the secrets of all foreign kings;

I’ll have them wall all Germany with brass,

And make swift Rhine circle fair Wittenberg;

I’ll have them fill the public schools with silk,

Wherewith the students shall be bravely clad;

I’ll levy soldiers with the coin they bring,

And chase the Prince of Parma from our land,

And reign sole king of all the provinces;

Yea, stranger engines for the brunt of war

Than was the fiery keel at Antwerp’s bridge,

I’ll make my servile spirits to invent.


Come, German Valdes and Cornelius,

And make me blest with your sage conference.

Valdes, sweet Valdes, and Cornelius,

Know that your words have won me at the last

To practice magic and concealed arts:

Yet not your words only, but mine own fantasy

That will receive no object, for my head

But ruminates on necromantic skill.

Philosophy is odious and obscure,

Both law and physic are for petty wits;

Divinity is basest of the three,

Unpleasant, harsh, contemptible, and vile:

’Tis magic, magic, that hath ravish’d me.

Then, gentle friends, aid me in this attempt;

And I that have with concise syllogisms

Gravell’d the pastors of the German church,

And made the flowering pride of Wittenberg

Swarm to my problems, as the infernal spirits

On sweet Musaeigus, when he came to hell,

Will be as cunning as Agrippa was,

Whose shadows made all Europe honor him.

Which of the following is NOT a reasonable inference to draw about Faustus' feelings on his situation?

Possible Answers:

He has been offered the use of dark arts, and he is excited by the power this opportunity could afford him.

He must choose between earthly academic pursuits and the dark arts, and he finds the new path of magic exciting.

He has had a long and successful academic career which has led him to feel superior to and bored with those around him.

He must choose between earthly academic pursuits and the dark arts, and he feels ambivalent about the decision.

He has had a long and successful academic career, but feels that he has reached the limit of earthly, academic pursuits.

Correct answer:

He must choose between earthly academic pursuits and the dark arts, and he feels ambivalent about the decision.


The only inference that is not reasonable to draw about Faustus' feelings on his situation is that he must choose between earthly academic pursuits and the dark arts and that he feels ambivalent about the decision. While he is choosing between these two things, there is nothing in the speech to suggest that this choice is mandatory. Also, he expresses only excitement about his choice, not ambivalence.

Example Question #1 : Inferences: Drama

A bell rings in the hall; shortly afterwards the door is heard to open.

Enter NORA, humming a tune and in high spirits. She is in out-door dress and carries a number of parcels; these she lays on the table to the right. She leaves the outer door open after her, and through it is seen a PORTER who is carrying a Christmas Tree and a basket, which he gives to the MAID who has opened the door.)

Nora: Hide the Christmas Tree carefully, Helen. Be sure the children do not see it till this evening, when it is dressed. (To the PORTER, taking out her purse.) How much?

Porter: Sixpence.

Nora: There is a shilling. No, keep the change. (The PORTER thanks her, and goes out. NORA shuts the door. She is laughing to herself, as she takes off her hat and coat. She takes a packet of macaroons from her pocket and eats one or two; then goes cautiously to her husband's door and listens.) Yes, he is in. (Still humming, she goes to the table on the right.)

Helmer: (calls out from his room). Is that my little lark twittering out there?

Nora (busy opening some of the parcels): Yes, it is!

Helmer: Is it my little squirrel bustling about?

Nora: Yes!

Helmer: When did my squirrel come home?

Nora: Just now. (Puts the bag of macaroons into her pocket and wipes her mouth.) Come in here, Torvald, and see what I have bought.

Helmer: Don't disturb me. (A little later, he opens the door and looks into the room, pen in hand.) Bought, did you say? All these things? Has my little spendthrift been wasting money again?

Nora: Yes, but, Torvald, this year we really can let ourselves go a little. This is the first Christmas that we have not needed to economize.

Helmer: Still, you know, we can't spend money recklessly.

Nora: Yes, Torvald, we may be a wee bit more reckless now, mayn't we? Just a tiny wee bit! You are going to have a big salary and earn lots and lots of money.

Helmer: Yes, after the New Year; but then it will be a whole quarter before the salary is due.

Nora: Pooh! we can borrow till then.


Based on the stage directions that begin this excerpt, which of the following is possible to infer about Nora?

Possible Answers:

She is a member of the upper or upper-middle class

She is unpleasant to members of the lower classes 

She is unhappy in her marriage 

She comes from a wealthy family

She had an unhappy childhood

Correct answer:

She is a member of the upper or upper-middle class


Of the provided answers, the only one that the initial stage directions provide enough information to confirm is that Nora is a member of the upper or upper-middle class. We can assume this based on the fact that she is returning home from shopping with an armful of parcels and enlists the help of both a porter and a maid. There is not enough information to infer that she grew up in a wealthy family, only that she is a part of one now. There is also no indication that she had an unhappy childhood or that she is unhappy in her marriage now. There is also no evidence in the initial stage directions that she is unpleasant to members of the lower classes, and in fact seems to be the opposite, tipping the porter generously.

Passage adapted from Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House (1879)

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors