[Milton-L] RE: Samson's prayer for revenge

Carol Barton cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Sat Feb 23 21:09:19 EST 2008

For Derek and Alan (and Sara):

I think there is a middle ground here, one that Sara suggested, but perhaps worded too subtly for the point to be made: Milton is being deliberately subtle, too, allowing us to draw our own conjectures as to what it is that witnesses read in Samson's face: is he praying (silently or not) the words of the Old Testament (which Milton certainly can't dispute, as Derek suggests--the words must be what the sacred text says it is), or praying those words (silently) and in the midst of them experiencing the kind of epiphany that (as I have earlier argued) turns the drama from a tragedy to a comedy? (That is to say, is he a classical beserker like Harapha--and as the Old Testament suggests he is--or has he in the midst of his knee-jerk he-man reaction suddenly realized that it is God's will, not Samson's will, that should prevail?) For me, the beginning of the volta (to use an inappropriate but apt turn) occurs when he first reverses "I will not go" to "I feel some rousing motion" (paraphrase: I do not have the text at the moment), and transforms himself from the Defeater of Dagon to God's instrument in that action. 

The messenger, as Sara said, cannot read Samson's mind, and does not know what he is praying. Neither can or do we. But the messenger can tell from the look on his face that he is experiencing something profound--and that, I think, is all Milton wants us to "know."

Best to all,

Carol Barton

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