Samson Agonistes

by John Milton

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Samson Agonistes is an adaptation of the Samson and Dalila story of the Book of Judges in the Old Testament.

Samson is the central character. Milton begins the story after Samson has been captured and blinded by his mortal enemies, the Philistines. He has come to realize his physical blindness is not as debilitating as his spiritual blindness and he resolves to set things right following his fall from grace. Samson resolves to be worthy of his redemption, and spends the play resisting temptations from Dalila and Manoa.

Dalila is a complicated character. She is a femme fatale type, but she comes to Samson begging his forgiveness, trying to get him to believe that she only deceived him to protect her people and her gods. However, her sincerity is questionable and Samson certainly does not believe her.

Manoa is Samson's father. He is willing to pay for Samson's freedom, so he can come home and be cared for by Manoa. Manoa wants his child back and is content with letting his grown-up son essentially live through a second childhood in being dependent upon him. However, Samson resists this temptation.

Harapha of Gath is a warrior who taunts Samson. He wishes he could have fought Samson when he was able-bodied and in his prime, and claims he would have beaten him easily. Samson, despite his blindness and worn-down body, challenges Harapha to a fight, which Harapha declines, since he feels it wouldn't be fair. Unlike Dalila and Manoa, Harapha does not tempt Samson with a life of comfortable dependence.

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