Thursday, October 18, 2007

HSC Latin exam

Well, I've had a look at today's HSC paper, and I'm pretty happy. It was a pretty good paper, in that there weren't really any surprising or tricky questions; everything was clearly related to the prescribed study areas, and the passages chosen were of obvious importance, with lots that could be said about them. Here are a couple of the questions:

Brutus illis luctu occupatis cultrum ex vulnere Lucretiae extractum, manantem cruore prae se tenens, "Per hunc" inquit "castissimum ante regiam iniuriam sanguinem iuro, vosque, di, testes facio me L. Tarquinium Superbum cum scelerata coniuge et omni liberorum stirpe ferro igni quacumque dehinc vi possim exsecuturum, nec illos nec alium quemquam regnare Romae passurum." Cultrum deinde Collatino tradit, inde Lucretio ac Valerio, stupentibus miraculo rei, unde novum in Bruti pectore ingenium. Ut praeceptum erat iurant; totique ab luctu versi in iram, Brutum iam inde ad expugnandum regnum vocantem sequuntur ducem.
(AUC I.59.1-2)

Analyse the dramatic presentation of Brutus in this extract, with reference to Livy's aims. (8 marks)

The questions worth the most marks have tended to be double barrelled ones in the last few years, which gives you plenty to write about. In terms of drama in this passage, there's the direct speech Livy gives to Brutus with its formal tone and rhetorical devices. Livy also describes Brutus' actions in quite a dramatic way, emphasising the dagger throughout as Brutus first pulls it out of Lucretia's wound, then holds it up for all to see, then passes it to his companions to swear upon. It's all a bit melodramatic.

The drama of the passage allows you to talk about Livy's aims in two ways; firstly he is holding Brutus up as a moral exemplar, someone whose example in standing up to tyranny he wants his readers to follow. Livy intended above all his history to be one which provided a moral message. But Livy also aimed to entertain his readers, and we see that in his dramatic portrayal of Brutus- he presents the story with a certain creativity, which perhaps detracts from the accuracy of his narrative, but adds to its power to engage and entertain.

hinc procul addit
Tartareas etiam sedes, alta ostia Ditis,
et scelerum poenas, et te, Catilina, minaci
pendentem scopulo Furiarumque ora trementem,
secretosque pios, his dantem iura Catonem.

hinc Augustus agens Italos in proelia Caesar
cum patribus populoque, penatibus et magnis dis,
stans celsa in puppi, geminas cui tempora flammas
laeta vomunt patriumque aperitur vertice sidus.
parte alia ventis et dis Agrippa secundis
arduus agmen agens, cui, belli insigne superbum,
tempora navali fulgent rostrata corona.
hinc ope barbarica variisque Antonius armis,
victor ab Aurorae populis et litore rubro,
Aegyptum virisque Orientis et ultima secum
Bactra vehit, sequiturque (nefas) Aegyptia coniunx.
(Aeneid VIII.666-70, 678-88)

Analyse Virgil's use of characterisation and contrast to reveal heroic attributes in this extract. (7 marks)

Another double-barrelled question! This passage is the climax to Virgil's descrition of Aeneas' shield, and I would have been surprised if it wasn't in the exam. There's lots to talk about in terms of characterisation and contrast. Augustus is shown alongside the senate, the people and the gods of Rome, in fact he is even portrayed as a god himself, with images of light and fire, whereas Antony is foreign- barbaric even- and sacrilegous, and in contrast to Augustus who stands high on the prow of his ship, he slinks along behind a foreign woman!

This strong contrast shows us what Virgil considers true heroism- it involves both courage in leading, and a deep respect and reverence for the gods (pietas). These are the qualities we see in Aeneas throughout book VIII, and these are the qualities Virgil also assigns to Augustus, and shows to be lacking in Antony.


Mike Salter said...

I thought it was a pretty fair paper. The unseens were, to coin a phrase, pretty piss-easy really.

That five-mark question about the Brutus passage was a bit of a nonsense, but otherwise there wasn't much to complain about...

Mike Salter said...

Sorry, I meant the Romulus passage.

jm said...

i thought that question was a bit odd too. i also thought it was unusual that the scansion question didn't ask students to identify or discuss any metrical features.

Mike Salter said...

...i also thought it was unusual that the scansion question didn't ask students to identify or discuss any metrical features....

Sneaking suspicion of mine: the fact that last year's question on that topic was so silly (yep, it really was) perhaps made them wary of asking another dud one.

It really strikes me sometimes, looking at the questions they've asked in the past, that the people setting the HSC do not really understand scansion and its effects at all.