[Milton-L] Sophocles and Samson

John K Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Fri Nov 16 18:02:08 EST 2007


Philoctetes rises to face his enemies, yes, but even more alarmingly he rises to face his friends.  One of the most moving moments in the play occurs when Neoptolemus, who has been persuaded by Odysseus to deceive Philoctetes, but comes to hate what he is doing, offers to touch Philoctetes, who is writhing in agony, and Philoctetes tells him not to do it, on his life.  I have often thought that Milton was alluding to this moment in SA when Dalila offers to approach and touch Samson's hand, and Samson threatens to tear her limb from limb if she does.  Touch is very important in Greek tragedy, especially Sophocles, and Milton seems to have recognized this.

Adrian Poole has written very well about this in Tragedy: Shakespeare and the Greek Example, as has Oliver Taplin in Greek Tragedy in Action.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Arnold, Margaret" <mjarnold at ku.edu>
Date: Friday, November 16, 2007 1:23 pm
Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Sophocles and Samson
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>

> Kemmer and Rich,
>  
> I agree that an Ajax discussion would be valuable.  I'd 
> like to reinforce the mention of Philoctetes, too.  The two 
> plays were often published together in the 16th and 17th 
> centuries.  In Philoctetes, the hero is shunned by friends 
> and enemies, laments his suffering, and rises to face his 
> enemies at the end.
>  
> Enjoy the class discussions,
>  
> Margaret Arnold
> 
> ________________________________
> 
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu on behalf of Rich Durocher
> Sent: Thu 11/15/2007 9:51 AM
> To: John Milton Discussion List
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Sophocles and Samson
> 
> 
> 
> Kemmer,
> 
> This is a wonderful, provocative line of thought. I think you, perhaps
> with input from your students, should craft that essay on Samson 
> and Ajax.
> 
> Best wishes,
> 
> Rich DuRocher
> 
> 
> Kemmer Anderson wrote:
> >
> >> While sitting in Brian Hampton's class the at UT-Chattanooga,
> >> listening to him read the opening speech of Samson, I heard 
> the voice
> >> from Ajax, a speech performed by 2 classes of students a few hours
> >> before. Those "rousing motions" (SA, 1182) (Richard 
> DuRocher's 2005
> >> paper) went off in my head. The "I am lament" (Ajax,468) 
> speech from
> >> Ajax, the despair of Samson echoed through my head.
> >
> > I just spent a whole period hammering out Samson's speech to 
> my class
> > who are performing and reading Ajax after reviewing his 
> actions in the
> > Iliad, comparing the Hebrew God with the Greek gods. At the 
> end I said
> > write a journal entry comparing the despair of Samson and 
> Ajax. What I
> > see now is the following: An essay comparing the despair of Samson,
> > Ajax, and Philoctetes. Should I pursue the essay with my 
> students? I
> > hear the echo from the prison, the cave, or the tent. What do 
> you all
> > think?
> >
> > Jefferson at 16 and 17 filled his commonplace book with quotes from
> > Samson Agonistes. Somehow this is the way of educating young 
> Americans.>
> > Thanks for stirring my wonder during the Miltonic musings at
> > Murfreesboro.
> >
> > Kemmer
> >
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