Samson Agonistes

Samson Triumph

Samson Agonistes is Milton's attempt to bring together the seemingly opposing worldviews of Christianity and tragedy. While some would contest that tragedy has no place in Christianity, Milton observed the tragedy in Judges 12-16, and, as an astute student of human nature, imagined the emotions Samson must have felt and the verbal exchanges that could have occurred between him and others. The result of Milton's conjectures is Samson Agonistes.

If, as Chaucer writes, "Tragedy is to say a certain storie, As olde bookes maken us memorie, Of him that stood in great prosperitee And is yfallen out of high degree Into misery and endeth wretchedly" (, then Samson is indeed a tragic hero in the literary sense. Samson has clearly fallen from "high degree", as his friends remember a great man, a "Herioc...Renown'd...Irresistable Samson" (S.A. 125-126), the "glory late of Israel, now the grief"(179). Manoa recalls an "invincible Samson" (341), and the even the mighty Harapha admits: "Much I have heard/Of thy prodigious might and feats perform'd/Incredible to me" (1082-1084). No one would dispute that at one time the Philistines feared...

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