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Samson Agonistes

Samson Agonistes


by John Milton

Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type : Tragedy

Anticipation Stage

Okay, so we're going to do something a little different here. What we think is that—in the grand tradition of tragedy—Samson Agonistes starts in medias res. Translation: when the poem starts, Samson has already gone through the anticipation and dream stages. Let's check it out:

In the anticipation stage, the hero thinks that life is going to totally rule. And Samson definitely does. He's got super strength, God loves him, and apparently there are awesome things prophesied for his future.

Dream Stage

And it looks like things might come true. Sure, the first marriage didn't work out, but now Samson's got a hot new wife, the respect of his country, and, oh yeah, that super strength.

Frustration Stage

And now things go wrong. Dalila betrays him, his luscious locks are clipped, he's thrown in jail, and things go totally bottom up. How can he fulfill his destiny while he's doing hard labor in jail? If you ask us, this is where the poem begins: Samson is stuck in the middle of the frustration stage. How do we know? Because he tells us constantly that he is.

Nightmare Stage

Things go from bad to worse. He can't just be in misery by himself; he's visited by the Chorus, Dalila, the giant Harapha, his father, and then the messenger who announces that he's got to go perform for his captors. Can things get any worse? Could he be any farther from achieving his goal? We don't think so—and so this is clearly the nightmare stage.

Destruction Stage

So, this is literally destruction, because Samson pulls down the temple. And, oh yeah, he dies. But it's also kind of a redemption stage, because he fulfills his destiny and now he's going to be remembered as an awesome superhero. Too bad he won't be around to see it.

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