Archive for the 'Christian Tragedy' Category

Joost van den Vondel

March 10, 2008


Samson, or Holy Revenge

Like Milton, catastrophe takes place off stage and is related through a messenger
VDV’s messenger enjoys the suffering of the Philistines more than Milton’s
Compared to VDV, Milton skims over the suffering of the Philistines: VDV details the violent past between the Jews and Philstines through the Prince character

VDV’s Samson is important for his foreshadowing of Christ; he is read primarily as a divine figure
Milton’s Samson is notable as a great character, no limited heroism as in VDV

Sibyl seems to speak the language of the Chrsitian Bible, directly quotes Phil 2.2.

VDV stays close to the book of Judges: Delilah as a prostitue, Manoa is already dead, no Herapha

Play within a play is the context in which Samson brings the temple down: reversing the original seduction by Delilah


“Samson: Would I had shunned Philistia’s womankind,/ Deceitful bests! Well may I rue the day/ When I , near Sorek, loved the fair Delilah,/ Fickle and sly and loveless. For to drift/ At the mercy of a mistress is to sail/ In reckless danger on a silent sea./ Seduced by my foes’ money, night and day/ She clung to me, demanding that I tell her/ The secret of my strength, and even pled/ Amid the hottest fires of our love,/ A soul storm seldom weathered by a man.”

“My heart was blind with love; and all hr sobbing/ Grieved me to death. Continual lamentation/ Softened my heart like wax. The water-drop/ Thus conquers the hard granite.”
“Nevertheless, their rained into her lap/ A shower of silver coin, Where with my foes/ As with a dagger, pierced my mistress’ bosom/ And readily seduced her fickle heart.”

“My guard is coming back without delay./ But my hair grows again. I lie in wait/ To avenge myself upon the heathen race,/ Yea, earlier than men dream.”

“Prince: When your chief tribe, whose standard bears the lion,/ Crossed over our cold Jordan, and in rout/ Drove King Abonibezek from the field,/ They seized him in his flight and hacked the thumbs/ From off his hands and feet. Then he was forced/ Like some vile dog to gather up from earth/ With his own mouth the crumbs that daily fell/ Out of the dish, to crawl on hands and feet,/ To wallow and to rummage in the dust,/ Until, led to Jerusalem with joy,/ He died in fetters, yielding up his life.”

“Samson cannot reasonably complain./ He who plagues others, should himself be plagued.”

“If there be any stronger gpd by whom/ A prince may swear, I call on him to shatter/ Tjhe vaulted roof of Dagon’s house this day/ Upon the head of all the Philistines,/ And bury the o’erwhelm the revellers!”

“Men drag/ Crowned and anointed monarchs from their thrones./ Passions that burn and move are blended there/ Like colours which a needle on a loom/ Quanitly portrays; a master dramatist/ Can in imaginative tapestry/ So well portray that he who contemplates it/ Vows ’tis divine eye-music.”

“Men are a race of half-beasts and of whole./ The gods have made this difference innate.”

“For secular authority controls/ The body, but can never plumb the heart./ Hence came the fear of gods 9a high Power/ That knows the thoughts of each, and, like a sword,/ Pierces the human bosom mightily,/ Troubles the guilty conscience, yet assigns/ Peace to the pious, and can estimate,/ Within a man, each human soul’s deserts)/ For the support of states and governments/ Through introducing worship, to our good./ The prayerbook and the swrod, with like constraint,/ Both serve to rule mankind harmoniously./ There is a need for this two-handed Power/ Beneath which common men live happily.”

“Sibyl: We know these Hebrews, circumcized in body/ But not in spirit, care not for religion/ Beyond the laws that Pharao’s foundling founded;/ And thus they injure all old laws, and drive/ True princes from their lands with fire and sword.”

“Messenger: the hair on Samson’s head/ Suddenly seemed to grow.”

“Amid the ruins, red with oozing blood,/ Were mena nd women, crushed or partly crushed,/ Broken in neck, splintered in every bone,/ Dead, or just gasping forth a chocking ghost.”

“Fadael: That the example of his death and life/ Foretells a Saviour, of God’s spirit born,/ Who shall be persecuted, as was he,/ And dying, deal a fatal blow to death;/ But through a softer law He shall unburden / Each heart of its revenge- a law of love/ That puts the highest crown on human life.”


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.:

Christos Paschon

March 10, 2008

Christos Paschon/ Christus Patiens, or Christ Suffering

Unknown authorship

Very different tragic her: tragic will-Christ as divine will, no division with flawed human ethos, nothing is done despite himself

Criticism of Christian tragedy: isn’t tragic at all, the Christian tragic fall is read as divine redemption
Final words with Christ: promise redemption and threat of damnation
Tragic element as revenge ethic: Mary’s wish for vengance and anti-Jewish sentiments, Christ’s counter statements, to hate no one but ending statement of damnation for those who do not accept him as Christ

Awareness of maternal role in Mary makes vengeful emotions easily read as an aspect of flawed humanity: Mary represents both human maternal figure and divinity: Redemption for women in Mary as a second Eve
Mary’s anti-feminist language: original sin is Eve’s transgression, Mary claims that ‘men sin’ and asks for Christ to forgive Peter, which Christ obeys (divide in Christ as human son and divinity)

Threat of the mob to both Peter and Mary

Suffering as only human aspect of Mary- this suffering does not allow her to see the full meaning of Christ’s death (no divine sight)
Mary, like Christ, is fully divine besides her human suffering

Joseph: Jewish character that respects but does not accept Christ, Joseph must be exiled


“I shall proclaim the world-saving passion;/ As if from the mouth of the virgin-mother girl/ And the initiate loved by the Master./ For this story will present her first/ In maternal lament at the time of the passion/ And bewailiing it from the very beginning/ As if she herself were really the cause”

“Mother of God: If only the serpent had not slid in the garden/ Nor the snake lurked in the groves,/ Crooked-minded, for never would the offspring of the rib,/ Mother of the wretched race, have been deceived/ And dared to dare an over-daring deed,/ Thunderstruck with love of the fruit in her heart,/ Believing that from this she would obtain godhood”

“she was fated to bear with pains and groaning/ And to send successive generations into life”

“Indeed I believe it is the greatest salvation/ When a woman does not think apart from her husband/ And bringing all things before him, as is right,/ Does not listen to the allurements of another/ But is in agreement with her rightful husband.”

“For wretched woman does not cease from pains,/ giving birth, not giving birth and fleeing children”

“Alas, what new evil upon evil/ If we are betrayed by those who seem friends.”

“Messenger: Listen, wretch, who was before most blessed,/ Hear what ill-fated words I bring you.”

“Messenger, Quoting Peter: You, as is fitting, evil, will die evilly,/ First hanged from knotted ropes,/ Going swiftly into Hades,/ Wracked with pain since you betrayed him for silver/ And the lake of all-consuming fire will receive you.”
“For he would not be able not to be good/ But he would not help you if you are unwilling;/ For he has not placed a law of force upon mortals/ nor is his will tyrannical”
“For God will not force you to be wise:/ In the choice and decision of mortals/ Is his wisdom in all things, always.’ / Some angel or mortal,¬† I know not which, said these things,/ As I have said them, to the traitor.”

“Mother of God: May the doer die; Justice knows/ And the foul disciple will pay a just price”
“But the greatest of all human diseases/ is shamelessness.”
“Your faith is gone, it died long before./ Revealed as such, do you dare see the light, wretch?/ Or do you think the God of before does not still rule/ Or that the yoke of justice now lies idle?”
“Be gone, foul doer, destroyer of love:/ I spit, nor should I even mention your name/ For God abhors the betrayer./ O Child, why did you give to men/ Clear proofs to know the worth of gold/ But no bodily stamp of men by which/ To distinguish good from evil?/ Or, knowing yourself, do you want others not to know?”

“women who are close to this disaster,/ I will not bear the unbearable;/ I will hurl myself away, I will release my body, dying,/ I will recede from life; farewell: I am no longer myself.”

“Give, give me a word, oh Word of God the Father,/ Do not pass by your lowly mother in silence./ For now I need to hear the voice.”

“Chorus: Go to those terrors; now is the struggle of courage./ And we will follow with tearful step./ For the raging mob runs round him/ And one must not get too close to their anger./ Their heart is grave, the hateful mob will not bear/ To look at us; murderous, violent,/ It swings with the sway of hateful judgement.”

“Mother of God: First of all, whether blame does or does not/ Attach to woman, she will have bad reputation/ If she does not remain at home inside”
“I kept silent tongue and placid gaze”
“The serpent contrived, by the error of woman,/ To cast him from the garden and the sky:/ But God contrived against him in return/ To be born from woman and, remaining God,/ To become mortal and slaughter the destroyer/ Of mortals, destroy him and cast him underfoot”

“Chorus: Illustrious, most beautiful maiden,/ Rich, as you say in your offspring God,/ These things you know; now consider the future./ For we know that you are wiser than mortals/ And that, seeing these things, you also know their end.”

“Mother of God: I lament them/ And I bewail the deed that would next be done/ By those who crucified you, Child”
“For you will easily kill our enemy/ And you will cast down death and, arising swiftly,/ You will take revenge upon your torturers./ But woman is weak and naturally prone to tears./ And so, I lament and am struck/ By barbs of pain and grieve wretchedly./ I have glory, but nevertheless am destroyed/ Since I am stripped of your divine sight”

“Why do you cry, Peter? You have done terrible things/ But you can still obtain forgiveness./ Oh Child, oh beloved, oh Word of God,/ Forgive him. Men sin, Child,/ And Peter sinned from fear of the mob.”

“Christ: Virgin mother, go away now, strong,/ I absolve the sin of Peter as you ask/ For I have always obeyed your words/ Because of your pious and noble heart”

“Mother of God: My heart desires to know everything/ And even in your sufferings is greedy./ Oh, oh, oh oh;/ I knew these things from the prophecies./ Ai, ai; what shall I do? For my heart is gone.”

“Theologian: For nobly scraping away the bane of old age,/ The bane of man-ruining corruption,/ Let him make me a flourishing young man:/ Since now most evil old age emaciates all,/ Oh, how old age destroys me with a burden of pains/ From the outrage of our ancient mother decieved.”

“Half-Chorus: Of all things that have souls and sense/ We women are the most miserable creatures/ Who, having begotten children, see them die”
“But you, virgin, have now known the bed of a man;/ You heard your conception from an angel of God, you say:/ How can you now bear to see him as a corpse?”

“Joseph: For as is fitting, though I have no relation/ Of kin, I also honor his corpse as mine./ How we should take him or what we should do/ for the corpse to please you, consider, but if you follow my counsel,/ Keep silent, for this is always most seemly./ Nor will you see outrage against your dead Child:/ for I do not deny that I am Jewish:/ But I will never be able to believe/ that your Child was not noble,/ Not even if the whole race disagrees/ Or fills the mountain wood with words,/ Since I know that he was noble.”

“Mother of God: These wretches have not et recognized your birth/ Which came down to earth from Father’s heaven./ And so you must show them that you are God;/ And you will show them entirely; and if the race of Jews/ You wish to expel from the land in anger,/ You will drive them to the Roman hosts/ Whom they thoughtlessly chose to rule them,/ Since they rejected your mastery/ And took up Caesar as their lord./ For I see the punishement of your life-bearing death,/ Fire near homes and the foundation of palaces/ Already in ruins, the unquenchable gleam of fire,/ The immortal anger of God at this city”

“Magdalene: I saw two angles dressed in white/ Sitting above and below the tomb,/ The one at the head, the other at the foot/ And, seeing their divine brilliance,/ I stood astonished with joy and fear:/ And then I heard a voice in my ears,/ Unlike anything, and began to tremble again,/ And straight away I saw Christ in a new appearance;/ I have said it was not easy to approach his form,/ And I fell on the ground and embraced his feet.”

“Christ: Look at my hands and feet,/ And, seeing my pierced side clearly,/ Know me, that I am again myself,/ For a spirit does not have flesh at all/ And a spirit does not possess bones/ As you now see that I have them;/ And, touching me, see that I have these things./ This is how my Father sent me here;/ In this way too I send you to the world/ And I breathe the Holy Spirit into you, my friends;/ And you must take this and announce me to all/ With the Father and the Holy Spirit.”

“Narrator: Roayl one, queen, most blessed Virgin,/ You dwell in the seat of the blessed, heaven,/ Having escaped all mortal suffering,/ Wrapped in the robe of immortality,/ Always ageless and known as God;/ From above, please be kind to my words.”
“You have my true dream, something not made up/ Nor stained with the dung of mythic trash”