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monly called the plot, whether intricate or explicit, which is nothing indeed but such ceconomy, or disposition of the fable as may stand best with verisimilitude and decorum; they only will best judge who are not unacquainted with Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, the three tragic poets unequalled yet by any, and the best rule to all who endeavour to write tragedy. The circumscription of time, wherein the whole drama begins and ends, is according to ancient rule, and best example, within the space of twenty-four hours.
SAMSON made captive, blind, and now in the prison at Gaza, there to labour as in a common workhouse, on a festival day, in the general cessation from labour, comes forth into the open air to a place nigh, somewhat retired, there to sit a while and bemoan his condition. Where he happens at length to be visited by certain friends and equals of his tribe, which make the Chorus, who seek to comfort him what they can; then by his old father Manoah, who endeavours the like, and withal tells him his purpose to procure his liberty by ransom; lastly, that this feast was proclaimed by the Philistines as a day of thanksgiving for their deliverance from the hands of Samson, which yet more troubles him. Manoah then departs to prosecute his endeavour with the Philistian lords for Samson's redemption; who in the mean while is visited by other persons; and lastly by a public officer, to require his coming to the feast before the lords and people, to play or shew his strength in their presence; he at first refuses, dismissing the public officer with absolute denial to come; at length persuaded inwardly that this was from God, he yields to go along with him, who came now the second time with great threatenings to fetch him: the Chorus yet remaining on the place, Manoah returns full of joyful hope, to procure ere long his son's deliverance; in the midst of which discourse an Hebrew comes in haste, confusedly at first, and afterward more distinctly relating the catastrophe, what Samson had done to the Philistines, and by accident to himself; wherewith the tragedy ends.
The Scene before the Prison in Gaza.
Samson Agonistes.] The subject, e. g. Elisæus Hudrophantes, but a very indifferent one for a Adorodocetus, Menutes, i. e. Elidramatic fable. However he has sha the discoverer of water, the made the best of it. He seems uncorrupted, the revealer of to have chosen it for the sake of counsels, &c. (2 Kings iii. v. vi.) the satire on bad wives. War. E. burton.
Samson.) Milton, after the exSamson Agonistes.] That is, ample of the Greek tragedians, Samson an actor, Samson repre- whom he professes to imitate, sented in a play. Aywrotns, lu- opens his drama with introducing dio, histrio, actor scenicus. one of its principal personages
Samson Agonistes.] Rather cywe explaining the story upon which Plotns, certator, a combatant, that it is founded. Thyer. is, one, according to Milton him. 1. A little onward lend thy self, v. 1601.
se people To these dark steps,] Proof of his mighty strength in feats So Tiresias in Euripides, Phæand games ;
nissæ, ver. 841. a combatant indeed not opposed,
Ηγου τροπαροιθε θυγασις, ώς τυφλω as he says, v. 1628.
wod. &c. None daring to appear antagonist.
Richardson. Further proof, if more be wanted, 3. For yonder bank] The scene of the true meaning of this title of this tragedy is much the same may be found in the titles of Mil- as that of the Οιδιπους επι Κολωνω ton's intended tragedies printed in Sophocles, where blind Edi. at the end of this, where every pus is conducted in like manner, epithet marks some particular and represented sitting upon a circumstance in the life of the little hill near Athens: but yet hero of the proposed drama; I think there is scarcely a single