In John Milton’s works, specifically Samson Agonistes, we get an idea of how Milton shows people coping with defeat. The most evident way these people to choose to deal with their defeat is by questioning why this has to happen. Which usually leads to what is the purpose of living if bad things are going to take place. Friends or family members also usually come to the aid of the person trying to cope with the defeat to help them realize that this is not the end. After time of grieving their defeat and talking about it, the person suffering finds a way to go on. In Samson Agonistes, Milton gave expression to his own fate–the splendid promise of a religious and dedicated youth, and the tragic close in blind and forsaken rage, a witness to the triumph of the Philistine foe (Worlds Best Poetry).
The character in Samson Agonistes was once, “Heroic renowned/, Whom unarmed no strength of man/, Or fiercest wild beast could withstand” (125-127 Samson), is no longer that feared that man. Instead he is a prisoner of his enemies chained and blinded by them, deceived by his own wife. After a life of such heroic activity Samson begins to question why him. His thoughts swarm upon him like a deadly swarm of hornets armed, no sooner found alone, but rush upon him thronging, and present times past, what he once was, and what he is now. He is really struggling with his current life wanting to know why his breeding was ordered as a person separate to God. Samson lays all the blame on himself saying how impotent his mind was in a body so strong.God gave him the strength to show everyone but the gift was so slight he hung it in his hair. After debating with himself about his life he turns to his loss of sight. “O loss of sight, of thee I most complain!” (67 Samson). Samson see his lost of sight in the worse way being that he viewed it so highly. He believes that light is the prime work of god and since that light is so necessary to life he is living a life half dead.Again Samson begins to question, “why was the sight to such a tender ball as th’ eye confined? If light was so precious why would it be exposed and so easy to be destroyed. Samson considers death a privilege because he would be buried and relieved of all his pains and wrongs. We see the same kind of questioning why in Milton’s, Lycidas.
In Lycidas, however the person suffering defeat is one that is mourning a friend. Just like in Samson Agonistes the speaker can’t believe this has have to his friend. The speaker wants to know, “Where were ye nymphs when the remorseless deep/, Closed o’er the head of your loved Lycidas?” (50-51 Lycidas). We see that Milton likes to question why when dealing with defeat in his works.
Samson friends who were referred to as the chorus comes to change his thoughts, or beliefs. At first they cant even belief that this is that great heroic man, looking at him now and recalling how great he once was. Just like Samson they cannot believe that this has happened to him. Before even confronting Samson they don’t even where to start to offer him condolences stating: “Which shall I first bewail, Thy bondage or lost sight” (151-152 Samson). They come as friends to visit or bewail Samson or if better to counsel or to bring any consolation they can to his troubled mind. Visiting Samson revived him a little because when he was great he had lots of friends who would swarm upon him. Now that he is weak no friends are around or anywhere to be found. Samson tells the Chorus that the one thing that drove him sideways the fact that his wife deceived him. The Chorus responds by telling him that, “Tax not divine disposal/, wiset men have erred, and by bad women been deceived/; and shall again, pretend they ne’er so wise.” (210-212 Samson) The Chorus and Samson begin to talk about why Samson chose his wife and how he is considered a Saint, after which Samson’s father arrives, Manoa.
Manoa asks the Chorus if their once gloried friend dwells here. As a response they state that, “As signal now in low dejected state, as erst in highest/, behold him where he lies.” (338-339) Even though Samson feels very low of himself his friends to still see him as remarkable. Once again, just like Samson and the Chorus, Manoa can’t believe that this is that invincible Samson. Manoa praises Samson and then questions why. Samson yet again lays all the blame on himself because he was the one who broke the pledge with God and betrayed it to a woman, and feels that his imprisonment and blindness is what he deserved. Manoa does not really offer any sympathy towards his son but instead tells him that he has brought shame to his home. Samson realizes this and it the chief affliction, that brings him shame and sorrow. He feels as though he has brought diffidence of God and have brought about higher praises to Dagon. The only thing that brings hope to Samson is if Dagon is defeated.
Manoa then tells his son that there is nothing else that can be done in the meanwhile in about Dagon and that he should just go home. Manoa has already “made way/ to some Philistian lords, with whom to treat/ about thy ransom: well they may by this/ have satisfied their utmost of revenge/ by pains and slaveries, worse than death inflicted/ on thee, who now no more canst do them harm.”(481-486 Samson) Samson still feeling as though he has got what he deserves tell his father to just spare himself the trouble. Manoa then tells Samson to just repent, and God may perhaps relent and quit thee all his debt and return home and start over. The one thing Samson wants is a pardon from God, but he still feels like what is the purpose of his life. He once walked about admired of all and dreaded hostile ground, none daring to confront him. He doesn’t want to go home to be pitied or sit around and do nothing. Samson rather drudge until the vermin or the pill-swill of servile food consumes him and brings about a much welcomed death. Manoa stills as though it will better for Samson to go home and lie bed ridden and hope one day of God giving back his gift of sight. Samson in complete denial still believes that there is no hope from him only the hope of death. Even though Samson has completely given up on himself Manoa tells him to stay strong while he tries to get him freed and to listen to what his friends have to say. Yet Samson only has one wish not to regain his sight but for a speedy death to close all his miseries.Even though Dalila, his wife, has betrayed him she comes to ease his mind.
Even though she feels she is too late Dalila comes to offer any amends in her power. Samson does not really pay any attention to what she has to say. She blames what she has done on curiosity, inquisitive, importune of secrets which is a fault of all her sex. Next it was religion that made brought to deceive him saying that how just it was, how honorable, how glorious to entrap a common enemy. This doesn’t make any sense to Samson because Gods going about prosecuting their foes by ungodly deeds. For that reason Gods cannot be pleased, obeyed, or feared. She considers herself a fool for what she has done, but wants Samson to put this all behind him. Dalila wants to go the lords and have Samson released so she can tend to him till old age.Samson doesn’t want to go down the same road twice so he says basically I will forgive you from a distance and be happy with that. Angered Dalia just says that she will be remembered for the one who saved her country and leaves.
Next Harapha a giant of Gath comes to visit Samson but not to console but to wish that none of this had taken place. Harapha would have loved to do battle with Samson and felt as though he would have defeated but he feels as though he cannot do battle with a blind man. Samson tells Harapha not to brag about what he would have done but just go ahead and do it now. Samson wants Harapha to go and tell Dagon if he were his God to tell they will do battle to see who God is strongest. It finally seems as though Samson has finally got some confidence back and is ready to what he was sent for.Samson wants to do battle with him even though he is chained but he still has his fists to swing freely. Harapha takes Samson message and leaves.
The Chorus is now in fear that the lords will come and do greater damage to Samson. If they dare Samson feels as though the only harm they can to him is death which is what he wants but they also may draw their own ruin if they attempt the deed. After which an Officer comes to take Samson to the feast where is to be a spectacle. Samson refuses because he is Hebrew, and his law forbids his presence. The officer leaves and delivers Samson’s message. After the officer leaves Samson realizes that he will go on the basis of it being involuntary and maybe God will pity him. The Chorus backs him in his decision. Samson also says that, “This day will be remarkable in my life, by some great act, or of my days the last.”Samson’s progression from “I cannot come” to “I will not come” to “I with this messenger will go along” has been a centerpiece of regenerationist readings of the play (Echoes).
In Paradise Lost, after Adam has eaten the apple and caused the fall of mankind, Adam himself is suffering from a little defeat. Adam was able to get over his defeat with the help of an Angel named Micheal, who helped him realize that good would prevail. “Oh goodness infinite, goodness immense!/That all this good of evil shall produce,/And evil turn to good (469-471 Paradise Lost). Adam is now rejoicing that much more good will prevail.
Samson was able to shake two massy pillars that gave the roof main support and with that the building fell and killed all those beneath. The Chorus best explains Samson’s last remarkable act in lines 1660-1669:
“O dearly-bought revenge, yet glorious!
Living or dying thou hast fulfilled
The work for which thou wast foretold
To Israel, and now liest victorious
Among thy slain self-killed
Not willingly, but tangled in the fold
Of dire necessity, whose law in death conjoined
Thee with thy slaughtered foes in number more
Then all thy life had slain before.”
Indeed, some of the speeches of Samson are almost Old Testament in their harshness; and there is a vindictive, unreconciled tone in the agony expressed by Samson over his blindness, his defeat, and the treachery of his wife, which has caused readers to see consistent autobiographical significance in the poem (Colliers).
Samson was able to deal with defeat with the help of friends and family members.
Even though Samson felt the only way to ease his pains was through death he found a way to go on and emerge victorious. It is clear in Milton’s work that a person dealing with defeat cannot do it alone he needs some kind of support. Also the person suffering always has to question why this have to happen and what is the purpose of the life. Foremost and most important the person suffering from defeat was able to conquer their defeat.
Milton, John (1608-1674); Colliers Encyclopedia
CD-ROM Robert M. Adams; 02-28-1996 (Colliers)
An Epitaph on The Admirable Dramatic Poet, W. Shakespeare; The World’s Best
Poetry on CD ™ JOHN MILTON; 03-20-1995 (Worlds Best Poetry)
Shakespeare’s Rome in Milton’s Gaza? Echoes and presences in Samson agonistes..Online full
text available Source:English Language Notes Date:1997
The Longman Anthology of British Literature Volume 1; Addison Wesley Longman Inc. 1998
Milton, John, “Lycidas” pgs 1738-1743, “Paradise Lost” pgs 1755-1904, and “Samson Agonistes” pgs 1905-1945.