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date: 26 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article asks a political question about the legitimacy of Samson's actions, which was one that also preoccupied a large number of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century commentators on the episode. John Milton exploited the debates of the Reformed interpretative tradition over the legitimacy of Samson's actions to help create the dramatic masterpiece of Samson Agonistes. It is worth emphasizing the centrality of the concern over Samson's status as a ‘private person’ in the Reformed commentary tradition, since its presence here offers a rather more plausible explanation for Milton's own emphasis on it than has been offered elsewhere. The fundamental legitimacy of Samson's actions in the commentary tradition out of which Milton in part forged his tragedy emerges particularly clearly in the comparisons these authors occasionally allow themselves to draw between Samson's situation and political struggles with which they were themselves familiar.

Keywords: Samson Agonistes, John Milton, fundamental legitimacy, commentary tradition, private person

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