In one of John Milton's final works, Samson Agonistes, the broken hero Samson stands apart from his Israelite countrymen in both ability and closeness to God. At birth, Samson is gifted immense strength which is connected to his hair and a prophecy that declares that he will "lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines." In one interpretation of the drama, Milton understands that Samson is of what he considers to be the "lower" Jewish race, but he still writes Samson as a prefiguration of Christianity because he supposedly transcends his Judaism. Contrastingly, I posit that Milton instead positions Samson as someone who is desperate to be the hero everyone expects him to be, leading him to act with selfish intentions. He behaves as if he can communicate with God, who is directly informing him of how he should fulfill the prophecy of his birth--through self-sacrifice. While he does fulfill the prophecy by killing a large number of his enemies alongside himself, he also misleads his audience of Israelites into believing that his death is the only path to their freedom. He has the opportunity to return to his people after he regains his powers in prison, tactically hiding his abilities from his captors rather than showcasing them immediately. Instead, he chooses suicide as a quick path to his freedom from the demands of his life as a hero and a judge--freedom to leave the task of saving his people to the next warrior.
Schiller, Anders Isaac
"Samson's Performance of Strength and Superiority in Milton's Samson Agonistes,"
Proceedings of GREAT Day: Vol. 2022, Article 4.
Available at: https://knightscholar.geneseo.edu/proceedings-of-great-day/vol2022/iss1/4