Samson Agonistes (John Milton)

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In terms of polished writing this is much better than Paradise Lost.  PL forces the reader to drink from a fire hydrant, as it were.  Milton gives you the pure essence of language and never lets up.  SA has the same polished style but it isn’t as intense. It’s not as grand, either.  We are dealing with a pure tragic hero, leaving aside the question of whether Milton intended Satan to be read as such.

He deliberately models Samson after the tragedies.  He takes some liberties but not as many as one would expect.  Delilah’s name is pronounced “Dolly-lah,” presumably for rhythmic purposes.

To his credit, Milton, following the Bible and contrary to legalist, prudish commentators, has Samson say that his first marriage to a Philistine was God’s doing.  How many times do you hear do-gooders attack Samson for marrying a pagan? That’s not what the Bible says.

Unfortunately, he tells the story as Samson marrying Delilah, which the Bible never states.  I think I know why Milton did this: he might be reading his own failed marriage over this template. 


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