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Samson Agonistes

Samson Agonistes


by John Milton

Samson Agonistes Samson with Dalila (710—1060) Summary

  • And now someone else is approaching—someone surprising.
  • It's a woman, so dressed up that they compare her to a beautiful and luxurious ship.
  • They assume she must be some rich Philistine woman, and they're right.
  • As soon as she's close enough, they realize it's Dalila.Samson obviously wants nothing to do with her.
  • Still, she's coming closer, staring straight at him. Oh, and she's crying.
  • Finally, she pipes up to say she has been very nervous to come visit him (duh) since she's afraid of how angry Samson still is with her (double duh), which, she admits, is completely deserved. (Seriously, lady. We're running out of duhs, here.)
  • Dalila says that if crying makes any difference, she's been doing a lot of that. Plus, she really didn't know how badly things would turn out. Samson may not be ready to forgive her, but she loves him so much that she's overcome her fear and she wants to check in with him. If she can do anything to make him better, or to make up for what she did, she'll do it.
  • Samson is not impressed. He orders her out of his sight and claims that everything she's saying is just further womanly deceptions.
  • He says she's the kind of woman who is incapable of genuine feeling and is just pretending to be sorry so she can torment him even more. Plenty of men have fallen for this kind of fake apology—but not him, not this time.
  • Dalila begs Samson to listen: it's only fair to hear her side of the story, plus maybe he'll be able to hate her less. First: she was just plain curious, which is a fault all women (she claims) have. And since Samson told her his secret, she was totally justified in telling other people. Although, okay, maybe those other people shouldn't have been his sworn enemies.
  • She goes on to say that, as much as her weaknesses are her fault, it's really Samson's fault for being too weak to see her weaknesses. As the guy, he's responsible for being the strong one. (See, Shmoopers? Sexism hurts everyone.) Besides, she did what she did out of love.
  • How's that? Well, he did leave Timna, his first wife. She just thought that by knowing this important secret of his, she could make sure he'd stick around.
  • Why she'd tell then? Well, she claims that she was assured the information she passed on wouldn't be used against Samson. It was supposed to keep him from being harmed and keep him with Dalila as her prisoner, not the Philistines'. Love always makes people do foolish things, she says, but because it was for love, they always are forgiven. She asks that Samson be strong and resolved in every respect except for his anger.
  • Are you convinced, Shmoopers? Not Samson. He calls her a "sorceress" and says that by revealing all her faults, she's just being even more cunning (819). She's just here to do more harm, he says, not to apologize. He says she's right to say that their faults were similar, but he's being just as remorseless and cruel to himself as he is to her—so, go cry on someone else's shoulder.
  • Her biggest fault is weakness (for money) but, since weakness is the origin of every horrible deed, it's no excuse. He doesn't believe that her actions came from love but rather from raging lust. If she did really love him, she wouldn't want to posses him but would want to be loved in return, which he obviously would never be capable of once she betrayed him. All she's accomplishing is making herself look even worse.
  • Okay, fine, Dalila says, but she didn't do it for gold. The leaders of her country pressured her into it by appealing to her sense of religious faith and patriotism. Turning in the enemy? That's pretty glorious.
  • In fact, she only held out as long as she did because of how much she loved Samson. But in the end, she felt that the only moral thing to do would be to sacrifice her own personal desires for the good of her country and religion.
  • Pshaw, Samson says. (Or, uh, something like that.) He totally knew that she was going to make this argument about her false religion and her fake belief. If she had really loved him, she would never have come to these immoral conclusions. And, Samson goes on, why is she even describing him as an enemy? They were married, she knew how much he loved her, how he'd do anything for her, how he chose her over any other woman of his people... so how, exactly, is he the enemy? And, if he was such an enemy, why did she agree to marry him in the first place?
  • Once Dalila became Samson's wife, her loyalties should have shifted to him and his people, so these leaders pressuring her shouldn't have been persuasive at all. Once they even asked her to betray her husband she should have completely disowned them.
  • Samson concludes that she did it to win favors from her gods, which aren't even real gods since they don't have any power and so shouldn't be either worshipped or obeyed. Basically, she doesn't have any ground to stand on.You can practically see Dalila rolling her eyes, saying that whenever a woman argues with a man, she always seems to come out as the wrongdoer. Samson sarcastically answers that this is probably because they run out of things to say.
  • Dalila admits that she was foolish to think she could succeed (although it's not clear exactly what she's referring to). But still, she wishes Samson could forgive her and let her make up for what she did. There are still good things in life, even though he's blind. In fact, she's sure she can gain permission from the government to take him home.
  • She promises that by tending Samson throughout his old age, she'll make up for all the things he's suffered because of her. As if!
  • Samson refuses her offer, obviously, saying that it's not her job anymore now that they are separated.
  • Besides, Samson doesn't want her to think he's so desperate as to go back to someone who tricked him before; he says he knows her deceptive ways all too well and won't be enticed again. He also doesn't trust her. (Makes sense.)
  • Considering what she did to him as her husband when he was strong, had many friends, and was feared by everyone, he shudders to think what she could do him now when he's weak and helpless. He can only imagine how much she'd enjoy controlling him and how she'd turn him over to her government again. His current prison is way freer than her home would be.
  • Dalila then just asks if she can at least touch his hand. Absolutely not, Samson responds. He might become so angry that he'd tear her to bits. He tells her that he'll forgive her from a distance, and sarcastically recommends she continue her good deeds and to enjoy the gold she'll receive as soon as she becomes a widow.
  • She finally gets it: He'll never get over her whole "betrayal" things. But is this her fault? Nope. It's his. He's even more stubborn than the sea and his anger will never be quenched. Why did she even bother to come and apologize when all she's been given in return is more hate? She promises never to involve herself in his life again.
  • Now she muses for a while: Fame is always two-sided, because it makes the same thing look good to some people and bad to others. Samson's people will hate her, but her own country will give her mad props. People will flock from all over the place to honor her grave. There will be perks when she's alive, too. All that honor and respect is going to be pretty sweet.
  • The Chorus finally lets Samson know that Dalila has left, and they come up with a fun analogy about how she's a serpent whose sting has been hidden until now.
  • Samson says God sent her to him as a continued punishment and as a reminder of the kind of woman he allowed into his life.
  • Captain Obvious Chorus over here responds with the profound statement that beauty is powerful enough to bring us back when we've been rejected or burned.
  • Samson reminds them that the typical lover's quarrel ends happily, not with betrayal and treachery.
  • Oh well, the Chorus says. Who really knows what attracts women to men? Samson probably won't ever figure that out. They explain that if Samson's first wife Timna hadn't proven so treacherous and preferred Samson's friend, none of Samson's later lady-problems would have happened.
  • Pleased with their misogynistic streak, the Chorus continues: are women so dumb because they're so beautiful? Or are they just too into themselves to be capable of eternal love? Even wise men can see a woman as all lovely and demure when they first get married. But as soon as she gets comfortable, she turns out to be totally annoying and enslaves him with her charms to do ridiculous things. And how can you blame him (they say)? What else can they do when their guiding companion is naturally this way? A man who finds a woman who is actually good must be really blessed by heaven, because it's so rare.
  • For all these reasons, the Chorus concludes that this is why God gave men authority over women.And for all these reasons, Shmoop decides, we are glad we don't live in the seventeenth century.

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