Samson Agonistes "A Living Death"
by John Milton

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"A Living Death"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The opening of this play finds Samson, foretold to be the deliverer of the Israelites from the Philistines, himself a prisoner, working as a slave for his captors, after his betrayal by Delilah, his wife. Samson declares that he has many miseries, each one worthy of a lifetime of wailing, but he declares, "O loss of sight, of thee I most complain!" Samson then delivers a most moving commentary on being blind, all the more moving for the reader who knows that the playwright himself was blind at the time he wrote the lines. As Samson is made to say, light is necessary to life, the same light that was the Creator's first decree; and yet that light is denied to the blind. For Samson a life of blindness is scarcely life:

To live a life half dead, a living death,
And buried; but O yet more miserable!
Myself, my sepulcher, a moving grave,
Buried, yet not exempt
By privilege of death and burial
From worst of other evils, pains and wrongs. . . .