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Samson Agonistes

Samson Agonistes

by John Milton

Samson Agonistes Samson meets the Chorus (115—329) Summary

  • But no! It turns out the approaching group is the Chorus, members of the Tribe of Dan. Also a member of the Tribe of Dan? Samson, and therefore these people are his friends and acquaintances.
  • Brain snack: The Chorus is a standard part of all Greek tragedy. They're like our little on-stage helpers, commenting on the action, offering advice, maybe saying some smart things, singing and dancing, and basically playing the part of "ordinary people."
  • For some nifty Greek Choruses, check out Aeschylus' Agamemnon or Euripides' Bacchae.
  • The Chorus is trying to be all hush-hush, but they can't believe how much Samson has changed—dispirited, hopeless, dressed in rags. C'mon, dude, don't buy all your clothes at Goodwill. How could this be the same famously heroic Samson they used to know?
  • Someone who was stronger than anyone else ever, tore lions apart, would single-handedly destroy armies, and against whom all forms of armor and weapons were useless?
  • Really, the only way to protect yourself against Samson was to get as far away from him as possible. Famous warriors and even whole armies ran away from him.
  • And this one time, at a battle? Samson lifted a whole city gate.
  • The Chorus can't decide what's worse at first, Samson's blindness or his captivity, but they eventually settle on his blindness, which they call "the dungeon of thy self," and describe how sad it must be to be trapped in one's own darkness (156). Way to cheer him up, guys.
  • They see Samson as a perfect example of how far someone can fall after living a life of impressive potential.
  • At this point, Samson clues in to the fact that they're there, saying that he can hear some people whispering.
  • So the Chorus decides to speak to him.
  • They tell him that they're friends and they want to cheer him up.Samson doesn't seem that grateful but instead explains how suffering has taught him how fake friends can be: when you're doing great, they love you, but when you're doing badly they never visit you. But they're here, so he might as well describe his various problems right?
  • Here goes:
  • He's like the pilot of a ship who has wrecked his ship through carelessness. He feels stupid because he brought all these problems on himself by letting himself be tempted by an untrustworthy woman and gave up this special gift he was given from God.
  • So, really: is he talking about him? making fun of what's happened to him? saying that he deserves what has happened to him? He may be strong, but he's not too smart—is this unbalance to blame for the disaster of his life?
  • The Chorus basically shrugs, telling Samson not to question God's plans. He isn't the first person, smart or not, to make a mistake and be seduced by a woman—and he won't be the last. Right, ladies?!
  • They urge him not to be so down on himself, especially since he has plenty of other problems to worry about.
  • But, now that he mentions it, it is weird that he chose to marry a Philistine woman, instead of one of the many hotties of his own people.
  • Samson can explain. He first married a Philistine woman named Timna, against his parents' wishes, because God had revealed to him that this was part of Samson's Important Destiny to save Israel.When that marriage didn't pan out (Samson doesn't explain why), he marries another Philistine woman, Dalila, because he figured if that was the plan for the first one, it should be for this one too.
  • In case we're wondering, this was not a good decision. We know that, because he calls her "that specious monster" and other not-so-nice things (230).
  • However, he says he can't really blame Dalila since it was his own stinkin' fault for revealing his secrets.
  • The Chorus responds by saying that Samson was right to try to do anything he thought would lead to his country's salvation... but it is too bad that Israel is still under Philistine rule (cough cough).
  • Okay, but that is totally not Samson's fault. It's the fault of Israel's leaders, who didn't even acknowledge Samson's warnings about the Philistines until, wham, Philistine invaded Israel.
  • Then, guess what? Everyone was asking for Samson's help in fighting the Philistines, which he did amazingly well, thankyouverymuch.
  • If these leaders had sent out enough support to help Samson, Israel would probably be ruling Philistine, not vice-versa. But now they're just lazy and accustomed to being ruled and now don't even care about poor Samson, who had fought so valiantly to defend them in the past.
  • The Chorus replies that Samson's story reminds them of other similar situations (all, not surprisingly, from the Bible):
  • (1) When a hero named Gideon was refused help by the leaders of Succoth and Penuel; (2) When a hero named Jephtha was left out to dry by the leaders of Ephraim, even though his fighting in battle was crucial in defending Israel.
  • Sound familiar?Samson thinks so. He totally thinks he should be added to the list, because he's always followed God's promise for his people's deliverance.
  • The Chorus replies by saying that God's plans are always just and always "justifiable to men," unless of course, you're an atheist, which they say is the dumbest attitude toward religion (293-294).
  • But there are plenty of religious people who question the justness of God's actions. Not cool.
  • These people tend to think themselves in circles, never able to actually reach a conclusion.They act as if God has to follow his own rules, when he obviously made these rules for us to follow and he can do whatever he wants because, um, he's God.
  • For example, they say, God broke his own "rule" of not allowing Israelites to marry non-Israelites when he urged Samson to marry Timna. But obviously God did this because he had bigger and better plans for freeing Israel completely.
  • Basically, they suggest that we ignore pointless reasoning and then make a very cryptic and unclear reference to Samson's first wife and her infidelities.
  • Then the Chorus takes a break from this philosophizing to announce that Samson's father, Manoa, is approaching.

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