Study Guide

Samson Agonistes Marriage

By John Milton


Sadly for Samson, something that might have been one happy part of his life turned out to be the absolute worst. disaster. ever. (Fun fact: Milton was drawing on personal experience here. He was one of the first people to make a Biblical argument for divorce.) Both of Samson's marriages to Philistine women end with betrayal, raising questions not only about marital fidelity, but also about fidelity to one's nation or people. In fact, it's a kind of uncommon and interesting aspect of Milton's writings that he so often focuses not simply on the passions of romantic love and sex, a typical topic of literature, but equally on the complexities of marriage as a personal and social contract. In Samson Agonistes, marriage is as much a political act as a private act.

Questions About Marriage

  1. What reason, or reasons, does Samson give for marrying a non-Hebrew woman twice? Do we believe him? Why or why not?
  2. How would you characterize Samson and Dalila's differing perspectives on marriage? Are they in any way compatible? Is either more persuasive than the other?
  3. Other than Samson and Dalila, who else has an opinion on marriage? Does this opinion, or opinions, differ from Samson's?
  4. How, if at all, does sexuality play into these discussions of marriage? What role is it imagined to have?

Chew on This

Dalila is obviously the unfaithful one here. You don't turn your husband into the authorities, plain and simple.

Samson's misunderstanding about what a good marriage should be like is the number one source of his problems.