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Samson Agonistes

Samson Agonistes


by John Milton

Samson Agonistes Samson is Ordered to the Theater (1061—1440) Summary

  • Someone else is coming toward them. Judging by his uniform, it's an officer of the state. And he's looking for Samson. Uh—he's the one in chains. In case that wasn't obvious.
  • The officer says that he's come to summon Samson to a public demonstration of his strength to honor the holiday of Dagon.
  • No way, Samson says. His religion won't let him participate in such an event.
  • Too bad, say the officers—you've got to.
  • Don't they have other talented performers they can round up? Samson asks. He imagines they not only want to make a spectacle out his strength, but also to make fun of his oppressed condition and blindness. He's not going, end of story.
  • Watch yourself, says this official, because this is not going to make his leaders happy.
  • He is watching himself, replies Samson, because he's still listening to his own conscience. Do his superiors really think Samson is so depressed that he'll do whatever they want? They really thought Samson would be down with making a fool out of himself for their entertainment? Not coming, he repeats.
  • Well, says the official, he was told to deliver the message quickly so if this is Samson's final answer, he's out of here.
  • By all means, says Samson.
  • The official worries about what consequences will come from Samson's stubbornness.
  • Maybe you should be worried about consequences, Samson replies.
  • The Chorus chime in with their own worries. They think Samson has been acting in ways that will upset the higher-ups. He should probably get ready for some serious payback.
  • But what's he supposed to do? He's not going to disrespect God again by using his strength for Philistine benefit and worshiping their idols. The whole thing is totally ridic.
  • Well, says the Chorus, he is helping the Philistines by working the labor camp. At least, replies Samson, it's through honest work, not worshiping a false god. But if your heart isn't in it, claims the Chorus, you won't be doing anything that's actually disrespectful.
  • Samson isn't buying it. They can drag him to the ceremony, but he's not just going to willingly show up. See, if you put God's wishes second because you're afraid of what a man might do to you, you're putting God himself second. And he's really not cool with that.
  • Sure, maybe God has some bigger plan that involves Samson going to this event, but he's going to wait for God to establish that.
  • The Chorus shrugs their shoulders and says that they have no idea how things will turn out for Samson.
  • Samson tells them to cheer up because, all of sudden, he feels "some rouzing motions" which make him think that something extraordinary is about to happen (1382).
  • In fact, he suddenly changes his mind and decides it's very important for him to attend this holiday performance and that he's become certain that it won't result in any disrespect to God. Samson suspects that today is going to a big day for him.
  • The Chorus says that Samson has some fine timing, because that Philistine official is heading back to them. The official tells Samson that he has a second message from his superiors: he has no right to deny the commands of his captors. Samson better agree to come now or they will come up with some very unpleasant ways to convince him and will carry him there by force.
  • Samson says he isn't afraid of any of these threats, but doesn't relish the idea of being dishonorably displayed on the streets if he's carried to the event by force. So he'll go. How can some captive refuse his captors anyway? Samson asks. And who doesn't want to live? But, he does reiterate that he won't do anything in direct violation of his religious beliefs.
  • The official is glad to hear about Samson's change of heart and suspects that his cooperation will be good for Samson in the long run.
  • Samson then says goodbye to his friends (the Chorus), telling them not to come with him. He doesn't know how the Philistines will react to seeing him, especially if he arrives with a big group and especially since the Philistines will all probably be a bit drunk.
  • Plus, people tend to be extra feisty during religious festivals and Samson isn't about to listen to anything disrespectful said about his God.
  • The Chorus urge him to go with God's protection and hope that he will demonstrate God' glory among the Philistines. They wish that the angel that prophesied his great deeds at his birth would return to Samson now and be on his side again. They all agree that no one has ever seen anyone as strong as Samson.
  • With that compliment, Samson leaves.

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