Justice in the Dock: Milton's Experimental Tragedy

Front Cover
University of Delaware Press, 1995 - Literary Criticism - 133 pages
"In Justice in the Dock, Harold Skulsky argues that the currently dominant moral readings of Samson Agonistes reduce it to the pious antiquarian charade it energetically refuses to be - whether the hero is taken as a war criminal or a saint (Christian or existentialist). Milton is as subversive a traditionalist here as elsewhere; he has picked a theologically scandalous stretch of Bible history to dramatize, and he invents a dramatic structure that makes over the theater, or theatrical imagination, into the scene of a jury trial. The result is neither a sermon in disguise nor a study in indeterminacy, but the theatrical equivalent of the republican freedom the poet's political career was dedicated to promoting. Attorney Milton declares his mind - but leaves the audience free to make up theirs." "On the way to establishing this, Skulsky brings out in all their nastiness the subversive questions forced by the Book of Judges on a would-be Christian believer of the early modern period, and he studies in detail two remarkable earlier attempts to come to terms, in the same tradition of "sacred" drama, with the same Book and the same questions." "Justice in the Dock is a book about the preeminent English poet (after Shakespeare) trying to make sense of a paradigm case of mass killing - virtually of genocide - that is endorsed by the Ground of All Justice and carried out by an Israelite hero who (if St. Paul can be trusted) is also a saint. The book is meant to attract readers interested in literature, moral philosophy, religion, or the historic roots of the modern sensibility, as well as readers specifically involved with Milton and his literary, intellectual, and religious background."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


Introduction In Those Days Every Man Did What Was Right in His Own Eyes
Vondels Version
Samson in Court
Apartness Revenge Antitragedy
Three Recipes for Avoiding Scandal
Scandal Forensic Drama

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 89 - That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked, and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee : Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right...
Page 44 - The Sun to me is dark And silent as the Moon, When she deserts the night Hid in her vacant interlunar cave. Since light so necessary is to life, And almost life itself, if it be true That light is in the Soul, She all in every part; why was the sight To such a tender ball as the eye confined?
Page 45 - Eyeless in Gaza, at the mill with slaves, Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke. Yet stay; let me not rashly call in doubt Divine prediction : what if all foretold Had been fulfill'd but through mine own default? Whom have I to complain of but myself? Who this high gift of strength committed to me, In what part lodg'd, how easily bereft me, Under the seal of silence could not keep, But weakly to a woman must reveal it, O'ercome with importunity and tears.
Page 69 - Hitherto, lords, what your commands impos'd I have perform'd, as reason was, obeying, Not without wonder or delight beheld : Now of my own accord, such other trial I mean to show you of my strength, yet greater, As with amaze shall strike all who behold.
Page 115 - Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.
Page 20 - Christendom. There I read it in the oath of every knight that he should defend to the expense of his best blood, or of his life if it so befell him, the honour and chastity of virgin or matron.
Page 49 - To bring my feet again into the snare Where once I have been caught. I know thy trains, Though dearly to my cost, thy gins, and toils. Thy fair enchanted cup and warbling charms No more on me have power; their force is null'd; So much of Adder's wisdom I have learnt, To fence my ear against thy sorceries.

Bibliographic information