Samson Agonistes Questions and Answers
by John Milton

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In Milton's dramatic poem Samson Agonistes, what kind of a national leader is Samson in the context of the poem, using critical analysis?

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Milton's tragic poem starts after Samson has been betrayed by Dalila, captured and blinded by the Philistians. Thus anything revealed about Samson's role as a "national leader" will come as background information. Also note, "national leader" is (1) an anachronism and (2) a misconception about Samson's role as God's champion.

First: "Anachronism" means an object, phrase, etc is used wrongly in reference to a time period. For instance, saying Milton went to Burger King for a hamburger for lunch is an anachronism because it connects the wrong things to the wrong time and place. Also, "national" was a new concept (coined 1500-1600) in Milton's time and unknown during Samson's. Thus it is anachronistic to think about what kind of "national leader" Samson was.

Second: It is a misconception of Samson's role and function as one chosen by God to define him as a "national leader." Samson was selected from before his birth to be in an elite religious order and to liberate his people from the Philistians. Thus it is a misconception to think of him in terms of a modern "national leader."

The reason these points are important is that the anachronism and misconception of "national leader" make it difficult to analyze the text to identify sought after textual evidence pertaining to Samson's role: you won't find anything matching "national leader."

Having said this, we can infer a few things about Samson's leadership from the text. In Samson's introductory remarks, he says:

Samson: ... [the] Promise was that I
Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver;
[...]
... let me not rashly call in doubt
Divine...

(The entire section contains 535 words.)

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