Joseph Anthony Wittreich, Jr.
The wisdom of putting these works together in the same volume is the commerce that is thus established between them. . . . Perhaps we have misread Samson Agonistes so ineptly because we have not fully acknowledged the interrelationships of the two works. . . .
-- John T. Shawcross
How little in the impressive outpouring of Milton scholarship bears explicitly on this problem" of intertextual connection between Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, writes Balachandra Rajan. 1 The poems in Milton's 1671 volume, for a long time, seemed resistant to the sort of criticism that both Shawcross and Rajan would sponsor; for on the one hand, they clearly embody radically different states of mind, in the words of A. S. P. Woodhouse are "so different . . . in doctrine, temper, and tone," and on the other hand, as William Riley Parker remarks, Samson seems "a bitter poem, a dark poem . . . a relapse" from Paradise Regained. 2 Still, this tired hypothesis should not be allowed to cancel out the livelier, more daring one, shared by Shawcross and Rajan alike, that Milton placed these poems together because he wished to make a statement through the juxtaposition--meant for these poems to be mutually reflective and illuminating and thus interpretively significant for one another, with Paradise Regained providing a fractional gloss on the poem that succeeds it. Milton regularly thinks in terms of such juxtapositions "opposing," as he does in A Treatise of Civil Power, "truth to error, no unequal match; truth the strong to error the weak though slie and shifting" ( Prose Works, 7: 261).
The juxtaposition of these poems and the ensuing dialogue between them suggest that they are not autonomous but dependent upon one another for their meaning. Milton's poems are always a plurality of other texts that help to unravel their meaning; their intertextuality, whether overt or covert, provides access to their meaning, with Paradise Regained and Sam-