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Literature and Politics in Cromwellian England$
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Blair Worden

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199230822

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199230822.001.0001

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Milton and Samson Agonistes

Milton and Samson Agonistes

(p.358) 15 Milton and Samson Agonistes
Literature and Politics in Cromwellian England

Blair Worden

Oxford University Press

Samson Agonistes, the nearest thing to a Greek tragedy in the English language, will always speak beyond the context that produced it. Being a triumph of imagination, it mirrors a wider range of experience than John Milton's own, which is why the stature of the poem has been evident to countless readers ignorant of or indifferent to its background. However anti-historical critics have imposed artificial choices on their readers. No one in the 17th century would have been impressed by the modern argument that because Samson Agonistes conforms to literary types or traditions it cannot have been animated by the poet's personal and political experience. Samson Agonistes, however many other things it may also be, is about Restoration England, which is as forcefully present in it as Puritan England is in Milton's political prose.

Keywords:   Samson Agonistes, tragedy, John Milton, poem, Restoration, England

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