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Levy_shortbz - John Milton's Dalila, as depicted in Samson...

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John Milton’s Dalila, as depicted in Samson Agonistes , is hardly a simple equivalent to the biblical Delilah, as described in Judges 16. By emphasizing Delilah’s womanhood, giving her an explicit Philistine nationality, and creating a marriage between Samson and Delilah, Milton uses one of the Bible’s most infamous femmes fatales to heighten the appearance of Samson’s mental weakness. However, Samson proves to be much stronger than the reader is led to believe. Milton makes the changes in Delilah to show that Samson has matured since he was blinded, and that his suffering has ultimately led to his enlightenment. Milton stresses Delilah’s womanhood, and de-emphasizes her personhood, by having Samson use the noun “woman” instead of “Dalila” while speaking of her. Samson refers to her by name only three times throughout his poem (Milton 229, 724). i The remaining eight references are “a woman” or some variation thereof. Samson first mentions Delilah when he is bemoaning his submission to Delilah’s pleadings to reveal his secret. He says, “Under the seal of silence could not keep,/But weakly to a woman must reveal it” (Milton 49-50). Later, Samson exclaims, “Fool! to have divulged the secret of God/To a deceitful woman?” (Milton 201-202). Further on, Samson says again that he “gave up [his] fort of silence to a woman” (Milton 236). The effect of these references creates the impression that it was the womanliness, or sexual power of Delilah which seduced Samson. Hence, any woman with such power would have been capable of the same deception. Milton’s pronoun choice of “a” woman instead of “the” woman or “that” woman enhances the perception of Delilah as a representation of woman personified. Delilah’s deception, then, gets attributed to all women instead of just Delilah. 1
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Any women, or “a woman,” could be partially responsible for Samson’s blindness and defeat. Delilah even admits that her deceptiveness can be attributed to her sex, “It was a weakness/In me, but incident to all our sex,/Curiosity, inquisitive, importune/Of secrets, then with like infirmity/To publish them” (Milton 773-777) Milton implies that the very essence of a woman is to be deceptive, and there is nothing particularly unique about Delilah in this respect. . By first establishing that women are a dishonest, deceptive sex, Milton thus makes Samson seem all the more foolhardy for his capitulation to Delilah. Of course, in this respect, Milton simply reflects a common attitude of his time (or perhaps any time!). If influenced by biblical precedents, Milton’s seventeenth century audience would have
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Levy_shortbz - John Milton's Dalila, as depicted in Samson...

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