Dalila appears 'like a stately ship of Tarsus' (ll.717-21), that is, an Old Testament symbol of pride. Dalila is a 'rich Philistian matron' because of the reward or payment she received for divulging the secret of Samson's strength to the Philistines. By making Dalila Samson's wife, not mistress (as inferred in the Book of Judges), Milton heightened the sense of betrayal against the hero. Samson's confrontation with Dalila is the second of his temptations.

Dalila endeavours to tempt Samson gradually, as Satan had done Eve. Like Satan, Dalila begins with hypocrisy. First, Dalila claims she has come to Samson out of 'conjugal affection' and attempts to assert that she is penitent for her betrayal. Samson immediately turns on Dalila - 'Out, out, Hyena' (l.748) - as Adam had done to Eve ('Out of my sight, thou Serpent'), and scorns her 'wonted arts' of deceit 'of every woman false like thee'. Samson scorns her 'feigned remorse'.

Apparently undeterred, Dalila attempts a 'reasoned' argument in her defence: the 'poisonous bosom snake' asserts she does not seek to 'lessen or extenuate' her 'offence' against Samson. She begins by stressing her inherent weakness as a woman, 'incident to all our sex', arguing the natural 'Curiosity, inquisitive, importune / With secrets, then with like infirmity / To publish them, both common female faults'. She continues by stressing her 'jealousy of love, powerful of sway / In human hearts, nor less in mine toward thee, / Caused what I did?' Dalila tells Samson she feared 'one day thou would leave me / As her at Timna' and that she was tricked by the Philistian lords. Samson sees through Dalila - 'How cunningly the sorceress displays / Her own transgressions' (ll.819-20), and responds with a reasoned argument. He declares that 'malice, not repentance, brought thee hither' and refuses to be tempted and misled.

Dalila perseveres, denying she had not acted for gold, argues that she betrayed Samson out of the 'bonds of civil duty / And of religion' which were impressed upon her by the Philistian lords and priest. Dalila attempts to claim she acted in the interest of the 'public good' and her betrayal of Samson was 'Virtue, as I thought, truth, duty'. Samson rebukes Dalila once again, attacking her 'feigned religion' and 'smooth hypocrisy'. Samson argues that their matrimony transcended enemy tribes and thus Dalila's claim to act out of patriotism and piety is false. He declares 'These false pretexts and varnished colors failing, / Bare in thy guilt how foul thou must appear!'

Dalila makes her final attempt to lure Samson. She tries to tempt him with lust and sloth: 'though sight be lost / Life hath many solaces, enjoyed / Where other senses want not their delights / At home in leisure and domestic ease' (ll.914-17). Dalila offers to intercede with the Philistines and secure his release so she may nurse him and love him. Samson is not deceived -advising her not to think he will be 'so unwary or accurst / To bring my feet again into the snare / Where I once have been caught'. Rejected by Samson, Dalila reveals her true persona. She scorns him, asking 'Why do I humble thus myself / ... reap nothing but repulse and hate?' Before leaving she announces,

'Nor shall I count it heinous to enjoy
The public marks of honour and reward
Conferred upon me, for the piety
Which to my country I was judged to have shown.
At his whoever envies or repines,
I leave him to his lot, and like my own.'

Samson and the Chorus discuss the captivating 'strange power' of female beauty.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.