TOEFL IBT Reading Practice Test 15 from Barron’s TOEFL iBT

Reading 2 “Looking at Theatre History”

One of the primary ways of approaching the Greek theatre is through arche¬ology, the systematic study of material remains such as architecture, inscriptions, sculpture, vase painting, and other forms of decorative art. [A] Serious on-site excavations began in Greece around 1870, but W. Dorpfeld did not begin the first extensive study of the Theatre of Dionysus until 1886. [B] Since that time, more than 167 other Greek theatres have been identified and many of them have been excavated. [C] Nevertheless, they still do not permit us to describe the precise appearance of the skene (illustrations printed in books are conjectural reconstructions), since many pieces are irrevocably lost because the buildings in later periods became sources of stone for other projects and what remains is usually broken and scattered. [D] That most of the buildings were remodeled many times has created great problems for those seeking to date the successive versions. Despite these drawbacks, archeology provides the most concrete evidence we have about the theatre structures of ancient Greece. But, if they have told us much, archeologists have not completed their work, and many sites have scarcely been touched.

Perhaps the most controversial use of archeological evidence in theatre history is vase paintings, thousands of which have survived from ancient Greece. (Most of those used by theatre scholars are reproduced in Margarete Bieber’s The History of the Greek and Roman Theatre.) Depicting scenes from mythology and daily life, the vases are the most graphic pictorial evidence we have. But they are also easy to misinterpret. Some scholars have considered any vase that depicts a subject treated in a surviving drama or any scene show¬ing masks, flute players, or ceremonials to be valid evidence of theatrical practice. This is a highly questionable assumption, since the Greeks made widespread use of masks, dances, and music outside the theatre and since the myths on which dramatists drew were known to everyone, including vase painters, who might well depict the same subjects as dramatists without being indebted to them. Those vases showing scenes unquestionably theatrical are few in number.

The texts to classical Greek plays were written down soon after the performance and possibly even before, though it is not always clear when or by whom. By 400 B.C.E., there was a flourishing book trade in Greece, but the texts for plays were a challenge. Hellenistic scholars dedicated years to sorting out the text and removing what they believed to be corruptions generally added by actors, but each time a text was copied there were new possibilities for errors.

The oldest surviving manuscripts of Greek plays date from around the tenth century, c.E., some 1500 years after they were first performed. Nevertheless, the scripts offer us our readiest access to the cultural and theatrical conditions out of which they came. But these scripts, like other kinds of evidence, are subject to varying interpretations. Certainly performances embodied a male perspective, for example, since the plays were written, selected, staged, and acted by men. Yet the existing plays feature numerous choruses of women and many feature strong female characters. Because these characters often seem victims of their own powerlessness and appear to be governed, especially in the come¬dies, by sexual desire, some critics have seen these plays as rationalizations by the male-dominated culture for keeping women segregated and cloistered. Other critics, however, have seen in these same plays an attempt by male authors to force their male audiences to examine and call into question this segregation and cloistering of Athenian women.

By far the majority of written references to Greek theatre date from several hundred years after the events they report. The writers seldom mention their sources of evidence, and thus we do not know what credence to give them. In the absence of material nearer in time to the events, however, historians have used the accounts and have been grateful to have them. Overall, historical treatment of the Greek theatre is something like assembling a jigsaw puzzle from which many pieces are missing: historians arrange what they have and imagine (with the aid of the remaining evidence and logic) what has been lost. As a result, though the broad outlines of Greek theatre history are reasonably clear, many of the details remain open to doubt.

skene: a stage building where actors store their masks and change their costumes

14. According to paragraph 1, why is it impossible to identify the time period for theatres in Greece?

A/ There are too few sites that have been excavated and very little data collected about them.
B/ The archeologists from earlier periods were not careful, and many artifacts were broken.
C/ it is confusing because stones from early sites were used to build later structures.
D/ Because it is very difficult to date the concrete that was used in construction during early periods.
Paragraph 1 is marked with an arrow [->].

15. What can be inferred from paragraph 1 about the skene in theatre history?

A/ Drawings in books are the only accurate visual records.
B/ Not enough evidence is available to make a precise model.
C/ Archeologists have excavated a large number of them.
D/ it was not identified or studied until the early 1800s.
Paragraph 1 is marked with an arrow [->].

16. The word primary in the passage is closest in meaning to ,

A/ reliable B/ important C/ unusual D/ accepted

17. The word precise in the passage is closest in meaning to

A/ attractive
B/ simple

C/ difficult

D/ exact

18. In paragraph 2, the author explains that all vases with paintings of masks or musicians may not be evidence of theatrical subjects by

A/ arguing that the subjects could have been used by artists without reference to a drama

B/ identifying some of the vases as reproductions that were painted years after the originals
C/ casting doubt on the qualifications of the scholars who produced the vases as evidence
D/ pointing out that there are very few vases that have survived from the time of early dramas
Paragraph 2 is marked with an arrow [-♦].

19. The word controversial in the passage is closest in meaning to

A/ accepted B/ debated C/ limited D/ complicated

20. Which of the following statements most accurately reflects the author’s opinion about vase paintings?

A/ Evidence from written documents is older than evidence from vase paintings.
B/ The sources for vase paintings are clear because of the images on them.
C/ The details in vase paintings are not obvious because of their age.
D/ There is disagreement among scholars regarding vase paintings.

21. According to paragraph 3, scripts of plays may not be accurate because

A/ the sources cited are not well known

B/ copies by hand may contain many errors

C/ they are written in very old language

D/ the printing is difficult to read
Paragraph 3 is marked with an arrow [->].

22. In paragraph 4, the author states that female characters in Greek theatre

A/ had no featured parts in plays

B/ were mostly ignored by critics

C/ did not participate in the chorus

D/ frequently played the part of victims
Paragraph 4 is marked with an arrow [->].

23. The word them in the passage refers to

A/ events B/ sources C/ writers D/ references

24. Why does the author mention a “jigsaw puzzle” in paragraph 5?

A/ To demonstrate the difficulty in drawing conclusions from partial evidence

B/ To compare the written references for plays to the paintings on vases

C/ To justify using accounts and records that historians have located

D/ To introduce the topic for the next reading passage in the textbook
Paragraph 5 is marked with an arrow [->].

25. Look at the four squares [■] that show where the following sentence could be inserted in the passage.

These excavations have revealed much that was previously unknown, especially about the dimensions and layout of theatres.

Where could the sentence best be added?
Click on a square [■] to insert the sentence in the passage.

26. Directions: An introduction for a short summary of the passage appears below. Complete the summary by selecting the THREE answer choices that mention the most important points in the passage. Some sentences do not belong in the summary because they express ideas that are not included in the passage or are minor points from the passage. This question is worth 2 points.

Greek theatre has been studied by a variety of methods.




Answer Choices

A/ Because the Greeks enjoyed dancing and music for entertainment outside of the theatre, many scenes on vases are ambiguous.
B/ Historical accounts assembled many years after the actual theatrical works were presented give us a broad perspective of the earlier theatre.
C/ Although considered less reliable, written records, including scripts, provide insights into the cultural aspects of theatre.
D/ Archeological excavations have uncovered buildings and artifacts, many of which were vases with theatrical scenes painted on them.
E/ For the most part, men wrote the plays for Greek theatre, but choruses and even strong roles were played by women.
F/ Computer simulations can recreate the image of a building that is crumbling as long as the dimensions and layout are known.

Reading Passage 1  Reading Passage 3   Answer Keys & Explanation