We begin with the Chorus' announcement that Samson's father, Manoa, is coming. Echoing the Chorus in the previous act, Manoa emphasises the 'miserable change' in his son. We are told of the prophecy that foretold Samson's birth and life. Here begins the first of Samson's temptations. Manoa begins to question divine justice as he considers all of Samson's deeds in pursuit of his calling and laments his fall. He asks how after all of his son's great deeds he could fall from divine favour for just one - 'For this did the angel twice descend?' Samson is resolute in his defence of God's ways (ll.373-76); he speaks of his own acts, especially the betrayal of the secret of his strength to Dalila, recognising that it is his own sinfulness that has cast his fate - 'sole author I, sole cause'.
Manoa introduces the Philstine festival in honour of Dagon (ll.440-43) and expresses his concern for dishonour to the true God. Manoa resounds that Samson has brought shame to the family. Samson acknowledges his sins:
'Father, I do acknowledge and confess
Samson becomes guilty of doubt as he admits he believes he is unable to protect the true religion from the pagan Dagon. Manoa asks his son, 'But for thee what shall be done?' (l.478) Manoa reveals that he has already begun to negotiate with the Philistines for Samson's release from captivity in Gaza (ll.481- 86). Samson tells Manoa 'Spare that proposal, father, spare the trouble / of that solicitation' as he deserves God's punishment for 'a sin / That Gentiles in their parables condemn / To their abyss and horrid pains confined' (ll.499-501). Manoa attempts to dissuade Samson from punishing himself. This is an important precursor for the 'great act' at the temple of Dagon and the dialogue concerning whether Samson is 'self-killed'. Samson has resisted Manoa's temptation to sloth, but for the wrong reasons - he does so out of pride, and from this shame at his fallen state. Manoa leaves to attempt to ransom Samson from the Philistines.
Samson and the Chorus consider God's ways once again. Samson 'acquits' God and, like Adam, accepts responsibility for his downfall. Samson is still, however, in a state of lethargy. At this point he is resolute that although Jehovah will not become subservient to Dagon, he will play no part in safeguarding it. The Chorus offers 'Stoic' comforting, stressing for Samson the virtue of patience and the mysterious ways of God in the return to His grace.
The effect of Manoa's visit has been to consolidate Samson's awareness of his sinfulness and exacerbated the hero's apathy. Samson's innermost doubts have been exposed by Manoa, and the hero's spiritual regeneration cannot yet progress. Hitherto, neither the Chorus nor Manoa have been able to raise Samson out of his lethargy. It is the visit of his second wife and betrayer, Dalila, that begins this process for Samson. This marks the beginning of the transgression from the passive to the active Samson. The Chorus observes for the blinded Samson the approach of Dalila.
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