Samson Agonistes

by John Milton

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Student Question

What is the meaning and significance of the final line "Calm of mind, all passion spent" in Samson Agonistes?

Quick answer:

Samson has been subjected to many things that have caused him great pain, but he is also a man who thinks of his own honor above all else. After being tormented by Dalila, he is upset that she would try to tempt him in this way and with the memory of his father. He is on the brink of despair when he goes to see the Philistines and fight them. They do not believe that Samson has returned and they taunt him, causing great anger in Samson. When he finally realizes that his strength has returned to him after destroying the temple, he is at peace for a short time before he dies. At this point, we are reminded that "calm of mind all passion spent"

Expert Answers

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As you indicate, the last line of the play/poem is meant to emphasize the feeling of catharsis that should be felt by the audience or reader by the end of the work.

In the play/poem, we have seen the building emotion that has led to the catharsis.  Samson has gone through an incredible series of emotions, meeting with his father, having to endure Dalila's temptations (and the terrible memories it must have brought), and being subjected to the taunts of Harapha.

After going through all this, he finally feels himself at peace when he decides that he must go to the temple.  His destruction of the temple restores his honor and gives him his revenge.  This is surely cathartic to him because it allows him to be purged of all the negative emotions he'd had.

The ending line, then, reminds us that our minds (like Samson's, at the end) can now be calm because the emotions that rose throughout the work have been released.

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