The John Milton Reading Room
Samson Agonistes
1671 Title Page of Samson Agonistes
Poetics. The Greek epigraph comes from Aristotle's Poetics, Chapter 6. "Tragedy is an imitation of an action, etcetera." Aristotle's comments on tragedy were considered prescriptive by many. See Poetics 1449b-1456b. The Latin translation is a fuller quotation: "Tragedy is an imitation of the life actions, etcetera. Through pity and fear effecting the release of these emotions."

M D C L X X I. Samson Agonistes appeared in 1671, published in the same book with with Paradise Regain'd. The title page of Paradise Regain'd reads in part "Paradise Regain'd . . . to which is added Samson Agonistes." Arguments about the date of composition tend recently to favor a later date, close to the publication, though like Paradise Regain'd, the poem may have been started much earlier. Agonistes means both an actor and a combatant or struggler. The story is based on the biblical narrative of Samson in Judges 13-16.