rather let me drudge and earn my bread,
Till vermin or the draff of servile food
Consume me, and oft- invocated death
Hasten the welcome end of all my pains. (ll.563-76)

However, despite Samson's physical, moral and spiritual weakness at this point, he nevertheless avoids Manoa's temptation through his own pride, recollection of former greatness. Samson refuses to become a 'pitied object' and fall into 'contemptible old age obscure'. Though Samson rejects Manoa's temptation, he does so for the wrong reason - not faith in God and his vocation, but through his extant pride.


In the third act Samson is confronted by Dalila, who 'like a stately ship' sweeps into the prison,

With all her bravery on, and tackle trim,
Sails filled, and streamers waving,
Courted by all the winds that hold them sway. (ll.717-19)

Milton's imagery suggests that the confrontation between Samson and Dalila will take on the character of a naval engagement, a battle between a dangerous and treacherous merchantman and a damaged war vessel helplessly meandering about a sea of doubt and confusion.

Dalila's temptation is that of concupiscentia oculorum (that is, temptation by fraud or persuasion). M. Krouse observes 'it is she, more than either Manoa or Harapha, who tries to persuade Samson.' The arrival of Dalila, the hero's 'accomplished snare', spurs Samson out of the despair into which Manoa's visit had thrown him - 'My wife... my traitress, let her not come near me' (l.725). Despite purporting the illusion of seeming repentance, Dalila remains the fraudulent temptress who recalls Lady Macbeth's advice to 'looke like th' innocent flower, / But be the Serpent under 't' (Macbeth, I, v, 74-5).

Initially, Samson's response to Dalila's presence is governed by pride and his painful memories of how her betrayal had 'effeminately vanquished' him. However, the return of Samson's spirit enables him to meet her challenge and resist her sexual temptation. He refutes her arguments with his partially restored reason (recta ratio) and the result is that his ability to reason is confirmed and strengthened as he confutes her specious reasoning. Samson does not simply reject Dalila's temptation as he had done Manoa's; he overcomes it and achieves a measure of self-knowledge in the process. With a false show of penitence and 'still dreading thy displeasure, Samson', Dalila has come, she alleges through 'conjugal affection', to seek forgiveness for her 'rash but more unfortunate misdeed' (l.747). Samson, who has learned from her betrayal, immediately sees through Dalila's façade. He charges her with 'feigned remorse', realising her objective is to regain his trust only to entice him to transgress once more.

Her first attempt having failed, Dalila tries a second. She admits her error in revealing the secret of his God-given strength to her Philistine lords, but attempts to convince him that she was moved by her own weakness and the fear of losing him (either to another woman or on the field of battle) and that she had been unable to foresee the consequences of her treacherous deed. However Samson remains resolute and is not deceived, either by Dalila's tears or her weighty and polished rhetoric. In response, Samson declares that 'All wickedness is weakness: that plea therefore / With God or man will gain thee no remission.' (ll.834-5)

Realising she has been thwarted by Samson once again, Dalila adjusts the grounds of her argument for a third time. She moves on to appeal to Samson to understand that she acted out of her commitment to public duty and religion, claiming it 'took full possession of me and prevailed' (l.869). However, this does not move Samson. Making a final attempt, Dalila suggests that she intercede with the Philistian lords for his release so that:

'I may fetch thee
From forth this loathsome prison-house, to abide
With me, where my redoubled love and care
With nursing diligence, to me glad office,
May ever tend about thee to old age
With all things grateful cheered, and so supplied,
That what by me thou hast lost thou least shalt miss.' (ll.921-7)

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