Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thoughts About Samson Agonistes

As I'm writing my paper, I've been struck by Samson Agonistes and its themes of freedom and redemption. It's so very easy to be caught up in the great epics of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, and I must admit when we read this one I may or may not have skimmed portions of the text. However, as I write I'm finding the characters rather interesting, and I think they tie into my topic of appetite as character
development more that Satan or Christ.

Samson’s downfall is brought by a physical hunger, and his lust and sexual appetites are what lead to his chaining before the Philistines. Samson Agonistes is something of a cautionary tale, and an overview reading often places the titular character in what I see as the role of tragic redemption, a kind of "Oh, if only he had kept it in his pants" warning I imagine parents of the time reading to their children. But when considering things further I've come to interpret it a little differently. I think Milton uses Samson to illustrate the point that satisfying a need does not automatically make one happy or sated. Samson lusted, and his lust was filled, but he finds himself in a new position hungering for freedom and repentance.

Samson views his current condition as divine punishment, a sort of penance he must pay in order to receive that forgiveness. In book one Milton writes:

"...I must die
Betrayed, captivated, and both my eyes put out,
Made of my enemies the scorn and gaze,
To grind in brazen fetters under task
With this Heav'n gifted strength (32-26)."

He's stuck in a bit of a bind, but Milton shows that hope is not lost. While he must go through more servitude to gain forgiveness, it will eventually lead him to his freedom. His appetites, while they may take a while, will eventually be satisfied, and he will not be left hungering for a release from bondage. He got himself into this mess, but Milton shows how he can set himself free. Everything is a process and a cycle, and it is how the character deals with that cycle that shows his or her development.

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