Samson Agonistes

by John Milton

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

John Milton's poem tells the story of how Samson overcame his defeat, imprisonment, and blindness, but most of all his pride in order to become the true hero he was born to be.

Samson, as it begins, has been tricked and defeated by Delilah. Now miserable and blind but with tresses regrown, he suffers and contemplates mortality in the Philistines' prison. As a feast day dawns, he ponders attending the feast. First the Hebrew elders visit, but he is not welcoming and criticizes them as cowardly. Three visitors come to see him: his father, Dalila, and Harapah, who is a giant. Manoa, his father, tells him the feast will honor Dagon and further emphasize the Hebrews' defeat, making Samson feel even more guilty and ashamed. Dalila's visit, as she ostensibly makes amends which he resists, confirms his newfound resolve and inner strength. Harapha, the Philistine giant, comes to taunt Samson about his now-vanished legendary strength. Although Samson is ready to take him on in a contest of strength, he insults Samson by calling him a slave whom it would debase him to fight. More morose than ever, Samson has no desire to attend the feast. But then something stirs inside him—a sense that he should go, so he does.

Later, his father returns to share the information about his ransom and release. The news comes that Samson, mightier than ever, has pulled down the whole temple—dead, but honorable and heroic once more.

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