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Samson comes to St John’s

Audiences will be taken to the very heart of the story of Samson, first as it is narrated in the Bible, and then in a tragic drama by John Milton

Published: 06/02/2018

Later this month one the Bible’s most sensational tales will be performed in a new and powerful double bill at St John’s College.

Audiences will be taken to the very heart of the story of Samson, first as it is narrated in the Bible, and then in a tragic drama by John Milton. Experienced actors will perform the live readings in Ancient Greek and English, while English surtitles are discreetly projected onto a screen. The voices will be accompanied by paintings and expressive music from Milton’s time.

Presented under the title The Saga of Samson, the semi-staged readings will take place in the College’s Old Divinity School on St John’s Street in central Cambridge on February 21 and 22, both starting at 7.30pm. Entry is free and the event is open to all, but early bookings are recommended. Places may be reserved here.

'Samson Agonistes' is a powerful and personal interpretation of the story, written by a poet in political disgrace who knew he was near the end of his life.

 

The subject of The Saga of Samson is found in the Old Testament. Four chapters in the Book of Judges tell the life story of Samson, an Israelite who uses his divine strength to fight the oppression of the Philistines. Famously, he loses his superhuman strength thanks to the Philistine seductress Delilah but he regains it at the end of his life and ultimately triumphs over his enemies in an unexpected and dramatic way.

Samson

“Samson rightly deserves a place alongside such complex and flawed heroes as Oedipus and Achilles.”

The first fifteen minutes of the performance at St John’s will present an abridged version of the Biblical story from an early Ancient Greek translation. The simple prose offers a brilliantly constructed oral narrative which will lead the audience up to the moment of Samson’s capture and enslavement. At this point the performance will switch over to an abridgement of Milton’s Samson Agonistes, which depicts the last day of Samson’s life. Samson Agonistes is a powerful and personal interpretation of the story, written by a poet in political disgrace who knew he was near the end of his life. Like Samson, Milton was blind, and tormented by fears that he would fail in his own divine mission.

Samson2

Both texts have been specially shortened by Professor Patrick Boyde, Fellow Borderer and Emeritus Professor of Italian at the College, who has produced and directed over two dozen semi-staged readings of Ancient Greek and early modern poetry and prose.

Explaining why he has chosen this story, Professor Boyde said “Samson rightly deserves a place alongside such complex and flawed heroes as Oedipus and Achilles.” He also explained why he chose such diverse material for the readings: “juxtaposing two versions of the story separated by two millennia can sharpen our awareness of the very different merits of each work.”

Bookings for The Saga of Samson are open now, reserve your place here.

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