John Milton

March 10, 2008


Samson Agonistes

Chorus is both Greek and Euripidean (not more enlightened than other characters)

Samson’s betrayal of his secret divinity located in his hair is read as feminine
Sexual intimacy with Dalila empties Samson of manhood and fill him with a “foul effiminacy”

Is Samson a hero responding to God’s will?
-In a restoration context
-Samson feels internal motions, read as a divine impulse from God (Christ-like)

Samson Agonistes as autobiographical for Milton:
Milton’s desire for divine revenge
Nations that are slaves within doors embrace tyranny and not liberty- Milton’s political beliefs can be seen in Samson
Civil obedience does not mean false religious conformation
Samson’s blindness


“Samson: O glorious strength/ Put to the labor of a beast, debased/ Lower than bondslave! Promise was that I/ Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver;/ Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him/ Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves,/ Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke;/ Yet stay, let me not rashly call in doubt/ Divine prediction; what if all foretold/ Had been fulfilled but through mine  own default,/ Whom have I to complain of but myself?/ Who this high gift of strength committed to me,/ In what part lodged, how easily bereft me,/ Under the seal of silence could not keep,/ But weakly to a woman must reveal it,/ O’ercome with importunity and tears./ O impotence of mind, in body strong!/ But what is strength without a double share/ Of wisdom?”

“But peace, I must not quarrel with the will/ Of highest dispensation”

“Then with what trivial weapon came to hand,/ The jaw of a dead ass, his sword of bone,/ A thousand foreskins fell, the flower of Palestine/ In Ramath-lechi famous to this day”

“But what more oft in nations grown corrupt,/ And by their vices brought to servitude,/ Than to love bondage more than liberty,/ Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty”

“Appoint not Heavenly disposition, father,/ Nothing of all these evils hath befall’n me/ But justly; I myself have brought them on,/ Sole author I, sole cause”

“foul effeminacy held me yoked/ Her bond-slave”

“To what can I be useful, wherein serve/ My nation, and the work from heav’n imposed,/ But to sit idle on the household hearth,/ A burdenous drone; to visitants a gaze,/ Or pitied object, these redundant locks/ Robustious to no purpose clust’ring down,/ Vain monument of strength; till length of years/ And sedentary numbness craze my limbs/ To a contemptible old age obscure.”

“This one prayer yet remians, might I be heard,/ No long petition, speedy death,/ The close of all my miseries, and the balm.”

“Dalila: First granting, as I do, it was a weakness/ In me, but incident to all our sex,/ Curiosity, inquisitive, importune/ Of secrets, then with like infirmity/ To publish them, both common female faults”

“Thine forgive mine, that men may censure thine/ The gentler, if severely thou exact not/ More strength from me,than in thyself was found.”

“Samson: All wickedness is weakness: that plea therefore/ With God or man will gain thee no remission./ But love constrained thee; call it furious rage/ To satisfy thy lust: love seeks to have love;/ My love how couldst thou hope, who took’st the way/ To raise in me inexpiable hate,/ Knowing, as needs I must, by thee betrayed?”

“Acknowledge them from God inflicted on me/ Justly, yet despair not of his final pardon/ Whose ear is ever open; and his eye/ Gracious to readmit the suppliant;/ In confidence whereof I once again/ Defy thee to the trial of mortal flight,/ By combat to decide whose god is God,/ Thine or whom I with Israel’s son adore.”

“My nation was subjected to your lords./ It was the force of conquest; force with force/ Is well ejected when the conquered can./ But I a private person, whom my country/ As a league-breaker gave up bound, presumed/ Single rebellion and did hostible acts./ I was no private but a person raised/ With strength sufficient and command from Heav’n/ To free my country; if their servile minds/ Me their Deliverer sent would not receive,/ But to their masters gave me up for naught,/ Th’ unwortheir they; whence to this day they serve./ I was to do my part from Heav’n assigned,/ And had performed it if my known offense/ Had not disabled me, not all your force:/ These shifts refuted, answer thy appellant/ Though by his blindness maimed for high attempts,/ Who now defies thee thrice to single fight,/ As a petty enterprise of small enforce.”

“The Philistian Lords command./ Commands are no constraints. If I obey them,/ I do it freely; venturing to displease/ God for fear of man, and man prefer,/ Set God behind: which in his jealousy/ Shall never, unrepented, find forgiveness.”

“Manoa: For his redemption all my patrimony,/ If need be, I am ready to forego/ And quite: not wanting him, I shall want nothing.”

“Manoa: But death who sets all free/ Hath paid his ransom now and full discharge./ What windy joy this day had I conceived/ Hopeful of his delivery, which now proves/ Abortive as the first-born bloom of spring/ Nipped with the lagging rear of winter’s frost./ yet ere I give the reins to grief, say first,/ How died he? Death to life is crown or shame.”

“Messenger:He unsuspicious led him; which when Samson/ Fellt in his arms, with head a while inclined,/ And eyes fast fixed he stood, as one who prayed,/ Or some great matter in his mind revolved.”

“Semichorus: But he though blind of sight,/ Despised and thought extinguished quite,/ With inward eyes illuminated/ His fiery virtue roused/ From under ashes into sudden flame”

“Manoa: Samson hath quite himself/ Like Samson, and heroic’ly hath finished/ A life heroic, on his enemies/ Fully revenged”

“Chorus: With peace and consolation hath dismissed,/ And calm of mind, all passion spent.:


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