Study Guide

Samson Agonistes Guilt and Blame

By John Milton

Guilt and Blame

No one wins the blame game. But, if there's one thing that seems to unite every character in Samson Agonistes, it's that they're all trying to blame someone else for the situation they're in. Even though Samson admits he's most at fault many times during the poem, he's also pretty good at pointing fingers at other people: Dalila, the Hebrew leaders... sometimes he even seems to be blaming God. There's obviously a lot of guilt and blame to go around in this story, and the bigger question isn't who's at fault, but why it even matters. Does it help to place blame? Or does it—ahem—just keep you locked in a prison of your mind?

Questions About Guilt and Blame

  1. Is there one character in particular who seems most interested in assigning blame? What about guilt? Is there one character that also seems to feel especially guilty?
  2. Do the topics of blame and guilt not seem to apply to some characters? Or is everyone, somehow, implicated?
  3. In what way are characters usually identified as being guilty: through their actions, beliefs, identities? Are these all equally valid ways of assigning guilt?

Chew on This

Samson is depicting a war situation between the Hebrews and Philistines. In war, both sides are always guilty. Samson shouldn't be trying to identify who is guilty and who isn't. The poem suggests that assigning blame is God's job, and we should just sit back and wait.