Samson Agonistes is unique in its treatment of the Herculean hero so prevalent in Renaissance drama (for example, Tamburlaine, Bussy D'Ambois, Coriolanus). Milton regarded Samson as a type of Hercules; but neither the biblical nor the Greek hero was adequate as a model for the hero of his drama. Unlike other Renaissance dramatists, whose conception of the Herculean hero derived from traditional versions (for example, Sophocles' Women of Trachis) and who portrayed Hercules in all his areté, Milton's conception rested on the much more humanized hero of Euripides' Heracles. Comparison of Heracles with Samson Agonistes reveals many similarities in theme, structure, and character. The conflict in both plays is spiritual and internal, and both heroes move from a nadir of despair to insight and gradual accumulation of inner strength. A persistent image in both plays is the movement from darkness to light, in each case reflecting the thematic movement from physical blindness to spiritual vision. Furthermore, the Amphitryon-Heracles relationship is very much like that of Manoa and Samson; Theseus functions in much the same way as does the Chorus in Samson; Hera's role is similar to Dalila's; and Lycus has much in common with Harapha. Finally, both plays end with emphasis on the hero's fame in history and his continuing influence on society; and both plays ignore traditional reference to the hero's deification or immortality.

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