“Samson Agonistes” is a closet drama published in 1671 by English poet and political activist ‘John Milton’. It was published alongside Milton’s Paradise Regained, a poem that follows his most famous work the epic ‘Paradise Lost’. Milton declared Samson agonistes is a tragedy written in the style of ancient Greek drama. The genre of closet drama denotes plays not written for the stage. It is written in blank verse.
About the Poet
John Milton the poet of Samson Agonistes was an English poet and man of letters commonly considered “One of the preeminent writers in the English Language”. One of the most knowledgeable men of his time he was fluent in English, Latin, Greek, and Italian, writing his works in all of these languages. Among his world-famous works included – Paradise Lost, Samson Agonistes, Areopagitica, and Lycidas. He is described as the “greatest English author” by biographer ‘William Hayley’. Poets such as William Blake, William Wordsworth, and Thomas Hardy were much influenced by John Milton.
The setting of the Play
The play takes place in a prison in Gaza, where Samson is enslaved by Philistines who have also gouged out his eyes and blinded him.
The theme of “Samson Agonists”
The play Samson Agonists has several themes, some of which are major themes – Blindness, Temptation, Violence, the commitment to God, Politics, and Misogyny.
About the Samson Agonists Play
The play is based on the Story of Samson from the biblical Book of Judges, a son of Israel who was endowed with unparalleled strength. When Samson marries his second wife, the Philistine Delilah, she betrays him to cut his hair while he sleeps. The play focuses on the final of Samson’s life after he has been betrayed by his wife and lost his superhuman strength.
Samson belongs to Israel and helps the Israel people from any trouble with his supernatural power. Philistine often attacks Israel but Samson protected them. Philistine people make plans to defeat Samson. They send Delilah, the most beautiful girl of Philistine to entrap Samson. Delilah succeeds in her plan and Samson get agrees to marry Delilah. After marriage, once Delilah comes to know that all the power of Samson is in his hair.
So Delilah makes a plan and sends a servant to cut his while he sleeps. When Samson losses all his power then he has been captured by the Philistines and put into a prison in Gaza and his eyes are cut out. Now in prison, Samson laments how he was once a great warrior and how he has been reduced to a blind prisoner. He is upset that he shared the secret of his strength with Delilah who betrayed him.
Now in Gaza, Chorus comes to meet Samson. The Chorus is comprised of Samson’s admirers and friends. He explains that before he met Delilah, he married a Philistine because God told him that an alliance with Philistines would help him in his mission to defend the Israelites Samson and Chorus both agree that if the Israelites had sent troops to support him, they would have been freed.
Manoah, Samson’s father, arrives and is stunned to see his son in his current state. Samson explains to his father that it is his own fault for telling Delilah the secret of his strength. Samson has no wish for a long life – he seeks only God’s forgiveness for being prideful. Manoah does not want Samson to stay in Prison and plans to bribe an official to release Samson.
Delilah arrives and cries over Samson’s state. She apologizes and offers to help, but Samson, no longer trusting her, just asks her to leave. She tells him that the Philistine will praise her through the generations, and leaves. Samson’s next visitor is “Harapha”. Harapha claims that Samson’s strength is sourced from magic, but Samson insists that it is from the Israelite’s God. Harapha leaves and an officer arrives to bring Samson to the festival to prove Dogon’s greatness but Samson refuses. But when the second officer arrives, Samson agrees to go. However, he soon feels a change within himself and agrees to go with the messenger.
Manoa returns just in time to hear what Samson has done, he killed every Philistine, and himself, by destroying two large pillars and collapsing the entire structure of the theatre where the celebration was held. Manoa and the Chorus lament Samson’s death but celebrate his heroism.
“Those who die for others live forever.”
In this way, Samson Agonistes set a great Sacrifice by giving up his life but eliminating his rivals.
Thus, We can say Samson Agonistes is one of the greatest Drama of John Milton.