Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Crowley, Lara

Degree Name

B.A. (Bachelor of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of English


You would not expect a female character in Puritanical literature to express ambition and seek opportunities to empower herself. However, in Samson Agonistes, Milton introduces readers to Dalila, Samson’s wife and antagonist, who betrays Samson and receives wealth and fame from Philistine officials for doing so. While Dalila is supposed to be portrayed negatively, I argue the antithesis. Dalila should be celebrated as an early example of a self-actualized woman. My argument is divided into three sections. First, I present a history of the Israelite and Philistine conflict, an account of the Biblical story of Samson and Dalila that Milton uses as inspiration for Samson Agonistes, and I present the relevant changes Milton makes to the story of Samson and Dalila. Next, I discuss the relationship of Samson and Dalila as a domestic partnership, including how they interact with one another in Milton’s closet drama. Finally, I argue, and conclude, that Dalila is an early example of an empowered woman in Puritanical literature. Samson fails in his duties as a husband, so Dalila seizes opportunity to live her life for her own ambition. By exhibiting ambition, Dalila becomes a self-actualized woman.

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Main article


19 pages




Northern Illinois University

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