The Corner


From a reader:

Mr. Goldberg, Regarding your post this morning “JPod Agonistes”, presumably the reference is to Milton’s Samson Agonistes. But I thought you might like to know that the title comes from the Greek “agon”, for contest or struggle, often a public contest. It means something like “Champion Samson”, and has nothing to do with Samson in agony. The word agony, however, is derived from the same Greek word, and according to the O.E.D. was used for “mental struggle” or “mental anguish” beginning in the fourteenth century, although this usage was sparse until the 1700s. Most often it seems to have been applied to Christ in Gethsemane. I guess Milton, being a great poet, could have meant for the title to have connotations of the modern sense of the word, but who knows? Anyhow I made the same mistake until I read the play a few months ago.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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