Study Guide

Samson Agonistes Religion

By John Milton


Shock! Samson Agonistes is obsessed with religion. Okay, now that you've recovered from that mind-blowing announcement, let's check out exactly how this theme gets deployed: lots of talk about God; pretty much everyone spends their time talking about religion; and, oh yeah, it's based on a Biblical story. But religion isn't just a superficial spackling. Milton is asking some serious questions here: What's the right way to be religious? What's the right religion? How can religion or the divine help you understand what right and wrong are? We think it's proof of just how serious Samson Agonistes is about religion that it doesn't offer any easy answers to these big questions. Instead, it just puts them out there for you to decide.

Questions About Religion

  1. Do all the characters we encounter seem to have the same relationship to religion, even if they practice different ones? If not, do any characters seem to view religion in the same way, or does everyone have a slightly different take?
  2. While religion is obviously a big deal all on its own, it often affects other areas of life. What other areas does it seem to touch in Samson Agonistes? Politics? Justice System? Romance? Society? Family? How?
  3. If you didn't know that Samson Agonistes was based on a Biblical story, how would you see religion coming into the story? Who brings it up and how do they talk about?

Chew on This

Even though the characters in Samson make a big deal about whether they're Hebrew or Philistine, they all seem to act in the same way. Religion doesn't seem to make a big difference after all.

Considering how this story ends, Milton is trying to show religion's dangers, not its benefits.