Autobiographical elements in Samson Agonistes

One of the most striking aspects of the play “Samson Agonistes” is how it demonstrates the significant effect that Milton‘s own life experiences had on the creation of this play. By the year 1652, Milton was completely blind. Ten years previously, in 1642, he had married Mary Powell. Milton was a Republican by faith, which made him hostile to monarchy. He had vociferously opposed the death of Charles I in 1640 and afterwards served as Cromwell’s Latin Secretary during the English Commonwealth era. Milton was imprisoned during the Restoration in 1660 as a result of his anti-royalist opinions and writings from the Commonwealth era. Several friends and well-wishers had toilsomely fought on his behalf to spare him from an extended detention. He had money problems, and his home’s ambiance was not conducive to his well-being. Milton had suffered from a number of setbacks, including blindness, a failed marriage, political persecution, gout, and financial problems. When he penned (during 1667-69)Samson Agonistes“, we can only imagine how sad he must have felt.

In Samson’s Lament, Milton expresses a lot of his own sufferings

Milton chose a biblical figure to use for the creation of this poem or play, “Samson Agonistes“, and he decided to use Samson’s final life as the play’s climax. In the latter years of his life, Samson was a slave and a prisoner in a Gazan jail. Samson had both of his eyes blinded by his enemies not long after they had caught him as a result of Dalila’s betrayal of him. Therefore, Milton had to portray the blind, ill hero as experiencing unspeakable sorrow and mental anguish in his play. Milton himself was blind when he wrote this poem, and as was already stated, he also suffered from a number of other tragedies. Though, this does not imply that Samson and Milton are identical. However, it is clear that Milton’s characterization of Samson at this stage of his life was heavily influenced by Milton’s own mental condition and personal circumstances. Samson’s initial soliloquy, as well as references to Samson’s blindness made by the Chorus and by Manoa, all evidently illustrate Milton’s own blindness and his agony over it. In the play’s opening statement, Samson claims that being blind is his biggest affliction.

He finds himself surrounded by enemies and claims that being blind is worse than being in chains, a jail, or being beggarly. Even the most disgusting worm has the ability to see, but Samson no longer has that ability. Due to his blindness, he is always at risk for fraud, abuse, disrespect, and wrongdoing both within and outside of doors. He has never been in his own control and is always entirely under the control of others. He is more than half dead; in fact, he is just partially alive.

Obvious parallels Between Milton’s and Samson’s Struggles

As has been previously stated, Milton was deeply disappointed when the Commonwealth in England was brought to an end and was restored by monarchy. His expectations for the Commonwealth had all been crushed to pieces. King Charles I’s son, Charles II, who had previously been executed by the Puritans under Cromwell, had now ascended to the throne. Thereby, the persecution of former friends and followers of Cromwell and the Commonwealth by the Royalists was inevitable. Milton was one among many who had experienced persecution. As a result, he was able to completely understand the thoughts and sentiments of Samson, the prisoner, who regrets not having achieved the purpose for which he was born and which an angel from heaven had foretold. Samson’s parents had raised him with the conviction that he was a unique creation in God’s eyes, that he was destined to perform heroic feats, and that his mission was to free Israel from the Philistines’ dominion. But when Samson became a prisoner and felt powerless like a kid, the expectations of the parents and Samson himself had come to nothing. Samson himself draws attention to the contrast between his wonderful past and his current predicament, when he says he was God’s “nursling” and “choice delight”. In the same way, Milton was also a source of pride for his parents, and he was once regarded as a national hero and sweetheart. However, he too had been deceived by his own people, who had welcomed Charles II to the English throne. Samson’s lament, which expresses the agony of a proud and valiant man forced to live in intolerable conditions, is likewise Milton’s own sorrow. It is a lament without promise.

The Similarity Between Samson’s Wife and Milton’s Wife

The play’s depiction of Dalila brings to mind Mary Powell, Milton’s first wife, and how she had treated him. Like Samson, Milton picked his wife from among those who were hostile to him. Mary Powell was from a Royalist family, whilst Milton had strong Republican ideals. Samson had picked a Philistine woman from among his enemies as his wife. The wife in question, Dalila, had deceived Samson by removing his hair and taking away his power. After finding Milton’s house unwelcoming, Mary Powell left for her parents shortly after their wedding and hasn’t returned since. Milton had been deeply saddened by Mary Powell’s betrayal. In Samson’s rather harsh way of speaking to Dalila, we may undoubtedly discern Milton’s personal thoughts towards Mary Powell. 

A Reference to current Events

Apart from a few passing mentions of current events, there is one lengthy paragraph in which references to recent occurrences and developments cannot be missed by anybody who is even vaguely familiar with English history. This is the part where the Chorus complain that God often behaves in a highly random way by eliminating those very people from His favor who He had previously accepted in his favor. The chorus claims that those who were God’s favorites have occasionally been forced to undergo all manner of degrading treatment. Milton is making reference to those people who, under the Commonwealth, had achieved prominence and esteem as a result of their deeds but who, after the restoration of the British monarchy, had suffered from violent and inhumane treatment. These sentences make a clear allusion to both Cromwell and his followers once the monarchy was restored as well as the unfortunate fate of individuals like Milton himself.

Then there are the passages where Samson contrasts slavery with freedom. He claims that a country starts to prefer slavery over freedom after it has grown corrupt due to long-standing servitude. Here, Milton is making a reference to his own people, whose love of bondage had been to blame for the removal of republicanism and liberty and for the reestablishment of monarchy and despotism in England.

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