Samson Agonistes (Greek for "Samson the agonist") is a tragic closet drama by John Milton. It appeared with the publication of Milton's Paradise Regain'd in 1671, as the title page of that volume states: "Paradise Regained / A Poem / In IV Books / To Which Is Added / Samson Agonistes". It is generally thought that Samson Agonistes was begun around the same time as Paradise Regained but was completed after the larger work, possibly very close to the date of publishing, but there is no agreement on this. Samson Agonistes draws on the story of Samson from the Old Testament, Judges 13-16; in fact it is a dramatisation of the story starting at Judges 16:23. The drama starts in medias res. Samson has been captured by the Philistines, had his hair, the container of his strength, cut off and his eyes cut out. Samson is "Blind among enemies, O worse than chains" (line 66). Near the beginning of the play, Samson humbles himself before God by admitting that his power is not his own: "God, when he gave me strength, to show withal / How slight the gift was, hung it in my hair" (lines 58-9).
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About the Author
As a young student, John Milton (1608-1674) dreamed of bringing the poetic elocution of Homer and Virgil to the English language. Milton realized this dream with his graceful, sonorous Paradise Lost, now considered the most influential epic poem in English literature. In sublime poetry of extraordinary beauty, Paradise Lost has inspired generations of artists and their works, ranging from the Romantic poets to the books of J. R. R. Tolkien.