We also talked about how difficult it would be to Samson Agonistes into an actual stage production and then, even if it was, that Samson seems bit too whiny to sympathize with. I would like to submit that perhaps the performance of the play would not only be natural, but would enhance the audience's view of Samson. For three reasons
1. Samson, the Bible hero, fits the bill for Greek tragic hero. One critic said "Samson Agonistes follows a common tragic pattern : the hero, looked on as something monstrous or unacceptable, is killed or exiled, or as in Samson's case, is forced into a position where death is inevitable. This pattern is also Christian. It is related to Milton's ideal of Christian heroism, of plain heroic magnitude of mind, of the single just man, of patience as the truest fortitude, or of the suffering of the saints."
2. The purpose of Greek tragedy parallels the purpose of Bible stories. Each was to warn against pride and remind the audience that uncontrolled power corrupts. The power given to Samson by God mirrors not only other Greek plays, but also other characters of the Bible like David, Adam, and Judas Iscariot. By seeing their downfall, we are supposed to associate pride, disobedience, and careless rule with anguish.
3.The Chorus was extraordinarily effective in fulfilling this desired Greek purpose and would consequently be effective in relaying the Christian purpose. The way the Chorus functioned was overwhelmingly effective in producing this feeling of anguish which made for very poignant, emotional connections to form very quickly for the audience between the evil actions and painful consequences.
It is the very genre of tragedy performed according to original methods that would allow Samson to be seen as he was meant to be.
"As a man, he is something greater than a king, a knight, a leader, or a judge. He has become himself. The idea that Milton's Samson is foolish, ignoble, stronger in muscle than in mind or spirit, has long been discredited. Yet Milton has retained or even added to many of the barbaric attributes of the Biblical Samson. They make his hero not less but more heroic. By a more vital principle of decorum than Samuel Johnson was willing to sympathize with, things normally not thought heroic deepen and humanize, even elevate, Samson's character. If he had been drawn as a straightforwardly civilized and refined hero, as a few critics assume, he would have verged on the priggish, or become an empty abstraction like Addison's Cato. Milton plainly has succeeded in avoiding this danger. His Samson has not only human weaknesses, but human strengths. He combines intellectual vitality and nobility of spirit with the starkness of a Biblical prophet. But his heroism cannot be reduced to a particular class or tradition. His analogues, with like qualities of essential greatness, are the heroes of three traditions : Job, Oedipus, and Lear."
Below is an INCREDIBLE performance of Oedipus Rex. If you're not interested in watching the whole hour and some odd minutes Here is a link to one of the most poignant parts of Oedipus Rex.
Tragic Pattern in Samson Agonistes
Texas Studies in Literature and Language , Vol. 11, No. 2 (Summer 1969), pp. 915-930
Published by: University of Texas Press
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40754039