John Milton, Samson Agonistes

Nicholas Moschovakis (Independent Scholar - North America)
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Samson Agonistes

is a closet play, i.e. a play not meant for performance. It was first printed in 1671, together with Milton's

Paradise Regained.

The play is a tragedy. Its protagonist is Samson, a figure well-known to Christians from Old Testament history (and from later commentaries, sermons, and imaginative literature, including political texts from England's revolutionary period). The second word in the title is an epithet in Greek,


meaning a man who is a contender in athletic events such as wrestling competitions, or who—in one seventeenth-century definition—“plays the champion”.

The text of Samson Agonistes is preceded by Milton's prefatory prose “ epistle” (discussed at the end of this entry), a prose “Argument” summarizing the main action (though not

6605 words

Citation: Moschovakis, Nicholas. "Samson Agonistes". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 26 September 2006 [, accessed 30 May 2024.]

2301 Samson Agonistes 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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