What is it about?

Milton’s Samson Agonistes retells the story of Samson in the Biblical Book of Judges. Most scholars see Milton’s drama as a straightforward endorsement of Samson’s heroism. Recently some have understood the work as an endorsement of religious violence, while others have argued that it raises questions about the institution of slavery. This essay focuses on the spiritual destruction of a hero who participates in violent conflict.

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Why is it important?

My essay takes a new direction in the study of Milton’s drama by arguing that it is a personal tragedy of a hero whose apparent victory for his people leads to his spiritual destruction. I base my analysis on the distinctive kind of logic Milton used: the logic of the French educational reformer Petrus Ramus.


I hope this article will provide an alternative way of understanding the tragic nature of Samson’s heroism. I intend this as an additional way of reading the drama rather than a refutation of other approaches. I also hope that this article will interest readers in learning more about the influential sixteenth-century French educational reformer Petrus Ramus, whose work continued to affect European educators into the eighteenth century.

Elizabeth Skerpan-Wheeler
Texas State University San Marcos

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This page is a summary of: “Deep Dark Truthful Mirror”—The Logic of Petrus Ramus and the Tragedy of Samson Agonistes, Explorations in Renaissance Culture, September 2022, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/23526963-04802004.
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