In the first act of the tragedy Milton immerses the reader in Samson's vocation, and the contrast between the prophecy and his fall. Samson's vocation is presented by Milton in terms of an unresolved tension between the divine prophecy and reality before us - between the promise of Samson's calling as God's champion and Israel's deliverer, and the reality of Samson the Philistines 'bond-slave' apparently (at this moment of the tragedy) devoid of God's grace. When led from his cell, Samson laments that although Dagon's feast may grant some ease to his body, it allows none to his spirit, which is assailed by 'restless thoughts' that rush upon him 'like a deadly swarm / Of hornets armed' (ll.19-20). Here Samson reveals the prophecy and his vocation, and crucially his doubt in his ability to realise God's will, and his self-pity at his condition as a slave of the Philistines:

'and present
Times past, what once I was, and what am now.
O wherefore was my birth from heaven foretold
Twice an angel, who at last in sight
Of both my parents all in flames ascended
From off the altar, where an offering burned,
As in a fiery column charioting
His god like presence, and from some great act
Or benefit revealed to Abraham's race?
Why was my breeding ordered and prescribed
As of a person separate to God,
Designed for great exploits; if I must die
Betrayed, captived, and both my eyes put out,
Made of my enemies the scorn and gaze;
To grind in brazen fetters undertask
With this heaven-gifted strength? O glorious strength
Put to the labour of a beast, debased
Lower than bond-slave! Promise was that I
Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver;
Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him
Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves,
Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke...' (21-42)

The Samson we meet outside the prison in the first act is spiritually dead. This is characterised by what Milton had described in De Doctrina as 'the loss of that divine grace and innate righteousness by which, in the beginning, man lived with God' (YP, VI:394). In this state of self-pity, Samson, like the Adam and Eve in Book IX of Paradise Lost, is incapable of anything except selfish thoughts and actions. His intense lack of faith is attested by his doubt in his ability to fulfil his vocation. It is only through spiritual regeneration that Samson can pursue his vocation once again.

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