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Samson Agonistes

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3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,495 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
A tragedy by John Milton, it is considered the greatest English drama based on the Greek model and is known as one more suited for reading than performance. The work deals with the final phase of Samson's life and recounts the story as told in the Old Testament Book of Judges. Himself blind when he wrote Samson Agonistes, Milton depicts Samson, the once mighty warrior, as ...more
Paperback, 170 pages
Published March 1st 2004 by Kessinger Publishing (first published 1671)
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Mary Overton
on blindness:

O loss of sight, of thee I most complain!
Blind among enemies, O worse then chains,
Dungeon, or beggery, or decrepit age!
Light the prime work of God to me is extinct,
And all her various objects of delight
Annull'd, which might in part my grief have eas'd,
Inferiour to the vilest now become
Of man or worm; the vilest here excel me,
They creep, yet see, I dark in light expos'd
To daily fraud, contempt, abuse and wrong,
Within doors, or without, still as a fool,
In power of others, never in my
...more
Samantha
Classic literature lovers only. Do not read for fun, because Milton is TOUGH, but if you appreciate close reading and are ready to spend hours poring through intricate details in a very complex and intelligent retelling of Samson, you will learn to appreciate Milton's genius.
Andrew
Aug 12, 2008 Andrew rated it it was amazing
I just got accepted to a conference to speak on this work by Milton! Critics have really been excited about this book for the last ten years or so: it opens a lot of debates about Milton's politics, theology, typology, possible misogyny and (what I'm writing about) rhetoric.

Milton complete reinvents Samson for his own literary purposes, which makes it an interesting contrast to PARADISE REGAINED (also published in 1671). No longer the jockish, arrogant, divinely tough brute memorable in the Old
...more
Qi
May 29, 2016 Qi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read-books
[I use "Dalila" instead of Delilah as it conforms with the spelling in Agonistes. “Delilah” is more often used in biblical translations]

"Samson Agonistes" is considered Milton's major work, second only to "Paradise Lost". To start, I read Judges 13-16 which detailed the birth and death of Samson, of which his relationship with Philistine woman Dalila/Delilah is the crux of his career. The biblical account of Samson is a brutal, cruel, and crafty man of extraordinary strength, fail in his besotte
...more
RK Byers
Oct 24, 2009 RK Byers rated it it was amazing
i liked this. he had Samson talking more trash than a gangster rapper!
Chris McCracken
May 13, 2009 Chris McCracken rated it liked it
Great tragedy, but Samson kind of sounds like a suicide bomber...
§--
May 06, 2010 §-- rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays
Just awesome. I'm always astonished with how readable Milton's poetry is. You just sail through this dramatic poem. It's a sign of complete mastery of the material and of the form. Milton does with blank verse what Chopin does with a piano.

SA is brief, and each scene is in the form of a dialogue. Very powerful stuff. It has been said that this is a synthesis of ancient Hebrew sensibilities and ancient Greek ones. I'm not sure if I agree. I'd have to think about it much more. It has also been sa
...more
Gloria Sun
Jun 10, 2016 Gloria Sun rated it it was amazing
My first reading of Milton (though I've heard of him for years). This is the biblical story of Samson the Nazirite whose strength depended on his hair, and who was betrayed by Delilah, treated as a Greek epic. I love it. The story of Samson I felt was never very preachy - he was just a really epic figure from ancient Israel.
Also, the lament for his loss of sight was very genuine, because Milton himself was blind when he wrote this. I could feel his sadness. I loved how he filled out certain deta
...more
Nadosia Grey
Sep 26, 2015 Nadosia Grey rated it really liked it
Very short, with little characters focused on the Biblical story from the Book of Judges. I don’t read this completely as tragedy in that the reaction to Samson’s death is not exactly perceived as tragic, but confirming of his heroism and duties to his religion. If there is anything tragic, it’s Samson’s self-acceptance of his misfortunes throughout the drama; it’s the sad realization that tragedy is designed and intended towards something greater than the despair it momentarily enacts. The dict ...more
Alison
Apr 27, 2015 Alison rated it it was amazing
Forget Paradise Regained, this is the lesser Milton work I want to worship forever. I don't know why but the story of Samson and Delilah always struck me as visceral and sort of sparse, but this poem takes the visceral aspect and exploits it through this beautiful "closet play" poetic format and just sort of makes it into a wonderfully gory mess. (I mean, not MODERN gory, but early modern gory... still quite striking.) The closest thing I can compare it to is the weird sentimental feeling I get ...more
Evey
Aug 23, 2014 Evey rated it it was amazing
The tragedy ensnares and engrosses the readers, the act of reading becoming an act of experience as the witness endures the afflictions and eventual enlightenment of Samson.
Esdaile
I came across it again (having last read it forty years ago or so) while listening to Handel's wonderful opera, "Samson". I was thinking to myself "and who wrote the stupendous libretto" until the penny dropped!
Like Parzival, Milton's Samson and Milton himself of course can only portray so vividly debate and furnish a picture of an opponent whom he wishes very literally in hell when he himself knew the temptation, "the wound". This -what does one call it poem? play? neither name seems adequate,
...more
Kari
Dec 31, 2012 Kari rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well I never got the attitudes of any of these characters (that's what they are!) from my reading of Samson. No repentant and loving Delilah, no solicitous friends, no polite and coaxing Philistine messengers, no parental feeling from Manoah, certainly no remorse and learning from experience and seeing where he went wrong and could improve out of Samson! Did Milton really get this out of his reading, or did he wear rose-colored glasses and was he filled with the milk of kindness to an amazing de ...more
Curtis Runstedler
Mar 29, 2014 Curtis Runstedler rated it it was amazing
Although the topic seems arbitrary, it's deeply personal when you consider Milton's social life during this period. With his young wife having left him and his eyesight gone, Milton turns to the Scriptures and the story of Samson and Delilah to express the anguish and hurt he feels in his own life. The play emerges as a powerful exploration of humanist emphasis and emotion. His command of the English language is as ripe as ever, and unfortunately this play is often overshadowed by Paradise Lost. ...more
Joseph
May 15, 2016 Joseph rated it liked it
I HATE having to admit this, but unlike Paradise Lost, I had serious problems paying attention to this one. It is John Milton so at the very least it's beautifully written--although it pales in comparison to Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained.
Nick Bond
Feb 15, 2015 Nick Bond rated it liked it
Milton is always worth a read, but this falls a bit flat. The scene never changes and the story is linear, leaving the reader wondering whether the most interesting parts of this tale happened offstage. It's partly salvaged by a great dialogue between Samson and Dalia.
Jim
Apr 06, 2016 Jim rated it it was amazing
Others have described the plot, and done it well. I will say that I found the book easy to read and easy to stay with. I highly recommend it.
Charles Gallagher
Feb 04, 2016 Charles Gallagher rated it really liked it
I forgot that I read this in my final semester of Development of Western Civilization but it was actually very good. Should read again.
Sara Baalbaki
I loved the Shakespeare allusions(especially from Hamlet) in it. It's beautifully written, but too misogynistic at times.
Hailey Lessard
Sep 28, 2015 Hailey Lessard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-for-school
Very interesting take on the biblical Samson from Judges.
Read for my Restoration and 18th Century Literature class.
Peter
Dec 18, 2015 Peter rated it liked it
its fine
Salome Berechikidze
Oct 19, 2015 Salome Berechikidze rated it really liked it
მართლა სექსისტები :დ
J. Alfred
Oct 03, 2012 J. Alfred rated it liked it
As a verse drama that Milton, in his argument, assures the reader was never meant to be acted, Samson Agonistes is kind of a weird one. That said, if one wants to read the emotional tsunami of Samson's last day as written by a guy who happened to be blind and one of the greatest poets who has ever written, well, this is a pretty good place to start. Plus it is short enough that one could finish it in a sitting, if one was a determined enough sitter. Busting with good lines-- give it a try.
Hayley Shaver
Mar 25, 2016 Hayley Shaver rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, plays
This is a drama in no more than five acts, as Milton puts it. It's about Samson and Delila.
Silvio Curtis
Jun 04, 2009 Silvio Curtis rated it really liked it
I read an edition of Paradise Lost that included some other stuff by Milton in the back. One characteristic of a lot of them was that they used ancient Greco-Roman genres and themes to talk about Christian religious topics. I thought some of the shorter works, like this tragedy about Samson written in the ancient Greek style, were well done, but Paradise Lost itself was a bit boring because the theological exposition encumbered the action too much.
Kathleen Dupré
Jan 16, 2012 Kathleen Dupré rated it liked it
The poetry is wonderful, as usual with Milton, but the tone of the entire work seems more whiny and petulant than anything else. The characterization of Samson in this tragedy is clearly the result of Milton's personal frustrations with his own life, and it seems probable that he wrote it as a form of cathartic release. All in all, I would say stick to Paradise Lost and Milton's other, shorter poems.
Krystal
Sep 28, 2010 Krystal rated it it was ok
Much better than Paradise Lost! And much shorter. :) I was a little disappointed though. I like reading the story of Samson so much in the Bible and I was looking forward to an expansion of it. I felt like this was more of Milton's own ponderings though, and I'm not sure that I liked it in Greek tragedy form...hm. Still interesting though.
John
Jan 14, 2014 John rated it really liked it
always good to revisit.
1.1
Nov 06, 2010 1.1 rated it liked it
Pretty good. You know it's the stuff when you start reading it and realize you needed the fix.

Short, too, so if you want to get to know Milton without reading Paradise Lost (which is rightfully more important) this is one good approach.
Brad Lyerla
Nov 29, 2013 Brad Lyerla rated it really liked it
I read Samson Agonistes in Western Literature Survey during my freshman year in college. We also read Dante, Cervantes, Mann and Ibsen that semester. It was all wonderful and I would love to read it all again the first time.
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John Milton (9 December 1608 – 8 November 1674) was an English poet, polemicist, man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell. He wrote at a time of religious flux and political upheaval, and is best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost (1667), written in blank verse.

Milton's poetry and prose reflect deep personal convictions, a passion for freedom and
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“But what more oft in Nations grown corrupt,
And by thir vices brought to servitude,
Than to love Bondage more than Liberty,
Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty;”
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“All is best, though we oft doubt, what the unsearchable dispose, of highest wisdom brings about.” 1 likes
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