English Language and Literature ETDs

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My study approaches Samson Agonistes by way of the tradition of Renaissance divine drama. The Introduction surveys the criticism of Sam­ 􀂘 from 1930 to the present and establishes the character of interpretations produced by other approaches. Chapter I surveys Aristotle's Poetics as the conceptual framework within which both Milton and the divine dramatists worked, emphasizing recognition and reversal. Chapter II analyzes adaptation of recognition and reversal in selected plays of the divine drama, revealing development of a method of dramatization that encouraged depiction of inner, spiritual conflict without allegory; plays discussed are John the Baptist, Freewyl, Acolastus, Misogonus, Samson, Tragoedia Nova, Marianna, Baptistes Sive Calumnia, and Samson, A Sacred Tragedy. Chapter III reads Milton's play against this background. I find the structure of Samson best explained as three tragic recognition scenes culminating in a reversal interwoven with two additional recognitions effecting catharsis. Recognition scenes depict thought as action, dramatize growth in Samson's understanding to the point of decisive action, and provide an eventful "middle." Present from initial lines to conclusion is imagery of blindness and "seeing" that underlines growth in understanding. The play is not allegorical; it develops theological realism after the manner of the divine dramatists, but Milton's superior artistry makes it seem unique.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Edith Buchnan

Second Committee Member

Hoyt Trowbridge

Third Committee Member

Franklin Miller Dickey



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