Date of Award

Summer 1966

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Edward C. Peple

Second Advisor

Dr. Lewis F. Ball


Certainly, every reader of Samson Agonistes who is at all familiar with the circumstances of Milton's life, his thought, and the history of his times has been attracted by obvious parallels between 'the poet and certain aspects or his dramatic creation, and he may understandably assume that the presentation or the sufferings of Samson constitute intentional, hidden autobiography. To assume even the obvious, however, is something too blithely done. A little research into this area of Miltoniana will reveal to him that scholarly opinion concerning Samson Agonistes and autobiography is greatly varied and that some scholars are inclined not only to deny the personal content but to place the date of the composition of the drama as early as the middle of the l640's. Of course, this dating in itself bespeaks a non autobiographical interpretation because most of the pertinent events and conditions in the life of Milton are of post-Restoration times. The reader may then reconsider the parities upon which he has based his autobiographical theory, and he will most likely find that they are aspects which are perfectly in keeping with the traditional Biblical character of Samson-blind, surrounded by his evil captors, and betrayed by his countryman and his wife.He will then realize that before he can turn his opinion of autobiography into a respectable thesis, he must make a scrupulous, verse-by-verse analysis or the poem to discover whether or not there are any instances of strong similarity between Milton and his own Samson which do not easily apply to the Biblical or hermeneutic Samson. Only upon such instances (termed "pure autobiography" in this paper) can be founded the conclusion that Samson Agonistes is an autobiographically significant work.

Such has been my progress in the study of this issue. My thesis is that while the poem is by no means a full allegorical representation of Milton's life or of any particular epoch in his life, it does contain conscious and palpable nuances and overtones which ere topical and pertinent to Milton's life, his philosophy end ideals, and the history of his times. After considering the possible sources for Milton's treatment of the Samson story (Chapter I) and a summary of the representative scholarly opinion concerning the autobiographical interpretation and the date of composition (Chapter I I), l have comprehended two major purposes in this paper: First, I have pointed out and given an exposition of every instance of autobiographical significance that I have been able to discover in the. drama. (Chapter III) Finally, l have given an evaluation of the nature and extent of this subjective incorporation. (Chapters III and IV)