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ENGL402: The Poetry of John Milton

Unit 5: *Samson Agonistes*   In this final unit, we will explore another one of Milton’s very last works, the drama, Samson Agonistes that begins after Samson’s blindness and imprisonment and tells the story of his final hours. Samson Agonistes is sometimes called a companion piece to Paradise Regained, since they have similar themes and they were published at the same time. As with the Paradise Regained unit, we will begin by placing the work in dialogue with other texts and traditions from which Milton drew. We will then trace a number of the work’s major concerns and achievements.

Unit 5 Time Advisory
Time Advisory: This unit should take you approximately 6.75 hours.

☐    Subunit 5.1: 15 minutes

☐    Subunit 5.2: 6.5 hours

Unit5 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to
- explain the major plot developments that occur in Milton’s Samson Agonistes;
  - compare and contrast Samson Agonistes with Paradise Regained;
  - explain the intertextual situation of Samson Agonistesand
  - describe the major thematic concerns of this drama as well as its representations of Samson, Manoa, Dalila, and Harapha, its indebtedness and deviation from the Bible, the articulation of Milton’s explorations of defeat, uncertainty of the Divine Will, the use of Prophecy, and its autobiographical reflections.

5.1 Thematic Relationship of Samson Agonistes to Paradise Regained and to Milton’s Life   Guiding Questions:

  • In what way is Samson Agonistes influenced by the Classical (Greco-Roman) world and in what way is it influenced by the Judeo-Christian world?
     
  • In what way might Samson Agonistes be considered somewhat autobiographical for Milton?
     
  • In what way does Samson function as a prophet in this drama?
     
  • In what way might Samson’s three major encounters (Manoa, Dalila, and Harapha) be considered temptations analogous to the three temptations Jesus encounters in Paradise Regained?
     
  • Does Samson’s character grow and develop throughout the drama or does it not? Explain.
     
  • Does Samson triumph as a great political and religious hero in the end or is he a mere terrorist? 
  • Reading: The Saylor Foundation: “Milton’s Samson” Link: The Saylor Foundation: “Milton’s Samson” (PDF)

    Instructions: Read the linked page.

    Reading this text and taking notes will take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License. It is attributed to The Saylor Foundation. 

5.2 The Biblical Version of Samson’s Life and Death   - Reading: Project Gutenberg: “The World English Bible (WEB): Judges Chapters 13 - 16” Link: Project Gutenberg: The World English Bible (WEB): Judges 13 - 16” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read these four chapters of Judges. You will likely need this Biblical background in order to make sense of many allusions in Samson Agonistes.
 
Reading this text and taking notes will take approximately 45 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: The resources above are in the public domain. 

  • Reading: The Saylor Foundation: “Milton’s Samson Agonistes Link: The Saylor Foundation: “Milton’s Samson Agonistes (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read the linked file.
     
    Reading this text and taking notes will take approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: The resource above is from the Dartmouth John Milton Reading Room and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs License. The original version can be found here. The text by John Milton is in the public domain. 

  • Lecture: YouTube: Professor John Rogers’ “Samson Agonistes Link: YouTube: Professor John Rogers’ “Samson Agonistes” (YouTube)

    Instructions: Watch the lectures. They will cover the subunits below.

    Watching this lecture and taking notes will take approximately 1 hour.

    Terms of Use: These video is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License. The videos are reposted from Yale Open Courseware and attributed to John Rogers. The original versions can be found here

  • Lecture: YouTube: Professor John Rogers’ “Samson Agonistes (cont.)” Link: YouTube: Professor John Rogers’ Samson Agonistes (cont.)” (YouTube)

    Instructions: Watch this lecture. It will cover the subunits below.

    Watching this lecture and taking notes will take approximately 1 hour.

    Terms of Use: These video is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License. The videos are reposted from Yale Open Courseware and attributed to John Rogers. The original versions can be found here

  • Reading: Dartmouth.edu: “Dartmouth’s John Milton Reading Room Bibliography” Link: Dartmouth.edu: “Dartmouth’s John Milton Reading Room Bibliography” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this optional resource for additional information on John Milton’s life and work.

    Reading this text and taking notes will take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

Final Exam   - Final Exam: The Saylor Foundation's “ENGL402 Final Exam” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “ENGL402 Final Exam”

 Instructions: You must be logged into your Saylor Foundation School
account in order to access this exam.  If you do not yet have an
account, you will be able to create one, free of charge, after
clicking the link.