Gray, J. C. (Jack Cooper), 1928-||Herbert, Edward T.
M.A. (Master of Arts)
Department of English
Milton, John, 1608-1674. Samson Agonistes||Spenser, Edmund, 1552?-1599. Faerie queene||Temperance
Many critics and scholars have studied Spenser's notions of temperance in connection with both Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. Samson Aqonistes, however, has not received a great deal of attention in this respect; yet I feel that If we read Samson Agonistes with an understanding of Spenser's notions of temperance, we can see how Milton uses temperance as a kind of conceptual backdrop for his drama. The adventures of Sir Guyon in the Cave of Mammon episode of Spenser's Faerie Queene Illustrate Spenser's belief that temperance enables man to withstand the temptations of wealth and sloth and to concentrate on more spiritual goals. The episode also shows that the ultimate penalty for failure to exercise temperance is spiritual death. Temperance, Spenser feels. Is a virtue which is improved by constant trial. Although, for Spenser, man is capable to a certain extent of withstanding temptation, he eventually needs Divine Grace as well. If we understand the conception of temperance presented in the cave of Mammon episode, we can see that Samson's ultimate fault was intemperance. We can also see that if Samson did not treat Dalila with scorn and contempt he would have been intemperate. In other words, that Samson remains In his "loathsome prison-house" in spite of the many opportunities of escape offered him shows that he is temperate. Finally, we can see that it is through temperance, purity of soul, and closeness to God that Samson destroys the Philistines at the feast in honor of Dagon, thereby freeing his people from tyranny and oppression. Milton, says none of this explicitly: rather, it is the philosophical framework which underlies Samson Agonistes.
Duckman, Charles Leonard, "Spenser and Milton : a study of temperance in Sir Guyon and Samson" (1966). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 5019.
Northern Illinois University
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