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Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System



MCAS QUESTION OF THE DAY:

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GRADE Grade 10
2017, SESSION ONE, READING SELECTION

In this excerpt from Elektra, an ancient Greek play, Elektra believes her brother Orestes is dead, but makes a surprising discovery. Elektra and Orestes have always blamed their stepfather Aegisthus and their mother for their father’s death. Read the excerpt and answer the questions that follow.

ELEKTRA

Translated by Robert Bagg and James Scully

CHARACTERS

Elektra
Orestes
Chorus Leader 

 

 
ELEKTRA
Then where is my dead brother buried?

ORESTES
Nowhere. The living don’t inhabit tombs.

ELEKTRA
Young man, what are you saying?

ORESTES
Nothing . . . that isn’t true.

ELEKTRA
He’s alive?
 
ORESTES
If I am. Alive.

ELEKTRA
He . . . is you?

ORESTES
(removes and hands ELEKTRA his signet ring)
Look at this signet. Our father’s.
Tell me if I speak true.
 
ELEKTRA
O day . . . of light!

ORESTES
Mine too.

ELEKTRA
Your voice! It’s you. You’re here!

ORESTES
I’ll never be anywhere else.
 
ELEKTRA throws her arms around ORESTES, embracing him for a while, then
stands close to him, looking into his eyes. . . .
 
ELEKTRA
It’s you I’m clinging to.

ORESTES
Don’t ever not . . . hold me.

ELEKTRA
(turning to address CHORUS)
Dearest friends, dear citizens,
look! It’s Orestes! Who deceived us
into thinking him dead, yet by that
deception, he lives again!

CHORUS LEADER
We see him, daughter.
After so much has happened to you both
your happiness has us crying with joy.

ELEKTRA
Son of the father I loved,
you’re here at last! Come
to find those you love!

ORESTES
I’m here. But say nothing. Yet.
 
ELEKTRA
Why not?

ORESTES
We’d better keep it quiet.
Someone inside might hear us.

ELEKTRA
Artemis knows, eternal virgin that she is,
those housebound women don’t scare me.
They’re worthless—dead weight on the Earth.

ORESTES
Women are warlike too.
I believe you’ve experienced that.

ELEKTRA
Yes I have. And you bring me back
to a bitterness nothing can hide.
One I can’t outlive or forget.

ORESTES
That I know just as well as you.
So when the trouble starts
remember all they did.
 
            . . .
 
ELEKTRA
Brother, your voice was one
I never thought I’d hear again.
I suppressed what I felt,
kept quiet, didn’t shout
when I first heard its sound.
Now that I’m holding you,
I see your face light up, the face
that in the depths of my grief
I could never forget.

ORESTES
(abruptly, refocused on his task)
Let go of it. No excess words.
Don’t explain how evil
our mother is, or how Aegisthus
siphons off Father’s wealth,
wasting it on pointless
opulence—don’t, because
you won’t know when to stop.
Just tell me what I need to know now
when the coast will be clear
or where we can ambush
our enemies—so our
arrival freezes their laughter.
Make sure your mother doesn’t
guess your intentions.
Don’t let your face glow
when you enter the palace.
Stick to your grief,
pretend my false death
really happened.
When we’re victorious,
then we can laugh, breathe
easy, and celebrate freely.

ELEKTRA
Brother, what pleases you pleases me.
You brought me joy when I had none.
And I’ll accept nothing for myself,
no matter how much it might mean,
if it would inconvenience you.
Doing so would put me in the way
of the god who’s befriending us.
You know how things stand here.
Aegisthus is somewhere outside.
Mother’s inside. But don’t worry.
She’ll never see my face light up.
My hatred for her runs too deep.
Since you’ve come home, I feel
so much joy it makes me cry.
How could I not? One moment
you’re dead, the next, you’re not!
You’ve made me believe anything
can happen. If Father reappeared
alive I wouldn’t think I’d gone
crazy, I’d believe what I saw.
Now you’ve come so amazingly back
home, tell me what you’d have me do.
If you’d never come, one of two
things would have happened. I’d have
killed my way to freedom, or died trying.

2017 Spring Release, English Language Arts - Grade 10
Download PDF Document Question 11 - Multiple-Choice

Reporting Category: Reading
Topic: 16 - Myth, Traditional Narrative, and Classical Literature
Standard: ELA.K-12.R.2.04 - Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
Standard: ELA.K-12.R.2.04 - Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

 

Based on the excerpt, what does the phrase “O day . . . of light!” in line 11 most likely symbolize?

 
 
 

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Last Updated: June 22, 2018
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