Samson Agonistes
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Samson Agonistes

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3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  1,085 ratings  ·  29 reviews
1912. 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 warrio...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.
§--
May 06, 2010 §-- rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Andrew
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
RK Byers
i liked this. he had Samson talking more trash than a gangster rapper!
Chris McCracken
Great tragedy, but Samson kind of sounds like a suicide bomber...
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
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
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
J. Alfred
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.
Silvio Curtis
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
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
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.
Evey
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.
John
always good to revisit.
1.1
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
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.
Ke Huang
The language in this play was well-crafted, but I have to say that I preferred Paradise Lost.

There were a few references that I didn't understand. Compared to Paradise Lost, Samson Agonistes is more claustrophobic.
Alex
Some really great passages here, and the style is lovely. The conclusion, however, feels strikingly terse and shallow, making it a pretty big letdown given how incredibly the poem started.
Jenaca
Aug 05, 2008 Jenaca rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who finds 17th century theological philosophy worth the effort...
Recommended to Jenaca by: Me
Difficult to get through (come on, it's Milton) but in a good way. A definite challenge. I like it because it's chock full of material to tear apart and discover anew.
Bob
Milton, a puritanical religious fanatic if their ever was one, (not that there is anything wrong with that) manages to take all the fun out of Sampson.
Courtney
1) Barnat, Sylvan
The Genius of the Early English Theater

2) Milton, John
Paradise Lost; Paradise Regained; Samson Agonistes

In compilation only.
Isaac
I am gradually learning how authors and poets have taken what was formerly a blander sort of story and rendered it classic and moving.
Jeffrey Greggs
O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
Irrecoverably dark, total Eclipse
Without all hope of day!
☯Bettie☯
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Inkpenshmee
haha. I can't believe i read this. It was for a class.
Wm
Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves.
Kevin
My third time through this poem.
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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...more
More about John Milton...
Paradise Lost Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained (Signet Classics) The Complete Poetry Paradise Regained Areopagitica

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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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