Samson Agonistes "Adding Fuel To The Flame"

John Milton

"Adding Fuel To The Flame"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The play opens with the last phase of the life of Samson, the Old Testament hero. The Philistines have blinded him and hold him prisoner in Gaza. The play, structured as a Greek tragedy, depicts the restoration of the fallen Samson to the grace of God. Samson has already been tested by God and failed the test. Having been punished and having repented his sin, he now undergoes trials of his will and integrity to prove that he is worthy to be tested a second time. The last of these trials comes when Harapha, a strong man of Gath, taunts Samson for his blindness and helplessness. Samson makes a humble admission of his sins and finds his punishment just. He still hopes for God's pardon. Samson challenges Harapha to single combat that they might find whose god is strongest, but the champion from Gath declines. Samson is then summoned to entertain the nobles at the feast of the god Dagon, but he refuses. As the officer leaves to report his refusal, the Chorus warns:

Consider, Samson; matters now are strain'd
Up to the highth, whether to hold or break;
He's gone, and who knows how he may report
Thy words by adding fuel to the flame?
Expect another message more imperious,
More Lordly thund'ring then thou well wilt hear.