SAMSON & DELILAH1

(A play in the form of a medieval mystery play2 by Mistress Margie of Glenmore)

SCENE 1:

GOD:

I am God, the One God Almighty.3
Gracious and merciful am I;
But great also is My Wrath
When mankind my will ignores.
Those there are who heed me not,
The covenant that I have with men made.
Their days they fill with all the deadly sins4:
With Pride they are bloated and swollen,
Greed and Lechery besmirch the hours of night;
Yea, even My Sabbath they keep not holy.
The Philistines bring bloody war
And waves of blood upon my Chosen People.
Therefore the heathens will I smite with vengeance
Until they kneel to me and cry me mercy.

Samson, I do choose to be my instrument;
To wreak havoc and mayhem amongst the Philistines,
To turn them from their wicked ways, from Our Land;
Therefore to save the Children of Israel, My Chosen Ones.

(Samson enters and kneels before God.)

Samson, verily thou art a man of truth and honour
Thy strength defies all other human foes.
Samson, thee shall I send into this den of inequity,
This city of sin5.
For the wages of sin are Death,
And the time of reckoning is surely near at hand.


SCENE 2:

PERSON 1:

Samson, must thou go and leave us here alone?
The Philistines burned your wife6 so piteously.
If you seek vengeance, your life may also be forfeit.

SAMSON:

Good people of God, be not afeard for I will come again.
God the Father has called to me, and for love of Him
I shall crush the heathen horde,
They that know not God, nor hold him as their Lord.

PERSON 2:

Stay true, brave Samson, and cleave only unto the Lord.

SAMSON:

May God keep you in the palm of His Hand, my friends.


SCENE 3:

SAMSON:

Long have I journeyed and much have I seen,
But weariness o'ertakes me.
I would fain find a place to tarry a while
And rest my weary head.

What place is this?

(Belly dancing music - Women dancing led by Delilah7)

I should resist temptation's urgent call.
I will but tarry a short time and then be gone.

(Seduction dance)

Ah, woe is me that hast cast out all thoughts of Heaven.
Yet all Bliss be mine should fair Delilah dance.
Her rounded thighs are like to jewels, crafted by a master's hand.
Her navel is a golden bowl from which I would fain drink.
Her neck is like a tower of finest ivory
On which bold kisses would I plant.
Oh, may her breasts be like clusters on the vine,
And the scent of her breath like to apples.
Her kisses will be as the best of wines:
Passing lips and teeth in sweet delight.
Make haste my love, be like a young gazelle
Upon the mountain of my desire.8

(Samson and Delilah embrace.)


SCENE 4: MEETING OF THE PHILISTINES

PHIL 1:

This warrior, this mighty Samson, makes of us mere dolts9.

PHIL 2:

He burnt up all our standing grain!

PHIL 3:

And all our shocks, that were proof against the winter's famine.

PHIL 2:

Our olive groves are little more than blackened stumps!

PHIL 1:

And this did Samson do with cunning and trickery.
Three hundred foxes, fiery torches at their tails,
Did he send amongst our grain, our livelihood.

PHIL 2:

And so his wife did die, cruelly burned at our hands.

PHIL 3:

And now bold Samson comes with vengeance for his wife.
But 'though full might'ly he wields his sword,
And grievously he smites us, his hated foes,
He bides full nights with the harlot, Delilah.
Eleven hundred pieces of silver each, we'll offer10.
If any weakness be in him, Delilah will with us share.

PHIL 2:

Then hie we hence to the beautiful Delilah
To seek her aid and bribe her with profit.
Thus shall we rid ourselves of this invincible warrior
Who kills our men and destroys our crops.


SCENE 5: DELILAH'S CHAMBER

DELILAH:

You are so strong, so big, so brave, so full of courage.
Tell me where your great strength lies.
Could you be so bound that one might subdue you?

SAMSON:

Because of my great love for you, I will tell to you:
Seven fresh bowstrings11, not yet dried,
But bind me round therewith, and
Weak I will become as any other man.

(Samson sleeps)
(Enter Philistines with bowstrings)
(Delilah binds Samson with bowstrings.)

PHIL 2:

Is't done?

PHIL 1:

Are the bindings tied full tight?

DELILAH:

'Tis done. Now hide you hence in yonder chamber.

(Philistines exeunt)

Wake ye up, my love!
The Philistines are upon you!

(Samson wakes, stands and breaks his bonds easily)

SAMSON:

These bowstrings snap like tow when touched by fire.
They hold me not.
I thank thee for thy timely warning, Delilah.
However, confounded I am as to how I was bound while I slept,
And you so close by.

DELILAH:

Behold, sweet Samson, you have deceived me,
And mocked me with your cunning lies.
Seven fresh bowstrings, not yet dried,
Could not contain your invincible strength.
Yet some means surely there is
By which you might be overcome.

SAMSON:

New ropes of hempen cord, but all unused,
Could bind my strength and make me weak as other men.
Woulds't have me bound to serve thy purposes?

DELILAH:

Oh no, sweet Samson, I would not bind thee
For I have too much pleasure from thy body unbound!

(Samson sleeps)
(Philistines enter with ropes)
(Delilah binds Samson)

PHIL 2:

Is't done?

PHIL 1:

Are the bindings tied full tight?

DELILAH:

'Tis done. Now hide you hence in yonder chamber.

(Philistines exeunt)

Wake ye up, my love!
The Philistines are upon you!

(Samson wakes, stands and breaks his bonds easily)

SAMSON:

No more can ropes hold me than with a fine thread of your weaving.
Once more I thank thee for thy timely warning,
'Though hardly can I comprehend how I can be so bound.
My love, come close, and so sleep we till it be morrow.

DELILAH:

Sweet Samson, because of the love you bear to me
Mock me not, but tell me truly, wherewith thou might be bound
And made weak like to other mortal men?

SAMSON:

Delilah, my heart's desire, oh comfort for my weary soul,
To you alone I'll tell whereby I may be made weak like other men:
If you should take the seven locks of my head,
And weave the tresses unto the weft of your weaving loom,
And fix it tightly with a pin, my strength will all be gone.
But let us sleep well now for the night is no longer young,
And I must to battle forth against the Philistines this morrow.

(Sampson sleeps)
(The Philistines bring in vertical loom12.)
(Delilah lays Samson's hair within the weft, and fixes it with a pin)

PHIL 3:

So tightly is he bound that this work may not go awry.

PHIL 1:

So hide we hence in yonder chamber, until these bonds be proved.

DELILAH:

Wake ye up, my love!
The Philistines are upon you!

(Samson wakes, removes the pin, and easily disentangles himself from the loom)

SAMSON:

I am full heartily saddened by this night's happenings.
Speak to me no more, but let us to sleep,
For full mightily my sword must I swing on the morrow.


SCENE 6:

(Philistines and Delilah)

PHIL 2:

Full seven nights have passed and still have you not
Found means whereby to undo the strength of mighty Samson.

PHIL 1:

Needs must we find a way to undo this champion's might.

PHIL 3:

Good silver have we offered, eleven pieces each,
For knowledge of how this man can be undone.
Speak to us Delilah, of the knowledge you have gained.

DELILAH:

Daily have I pressed great Samson for this gain,
But he will speak to me no more of things of such import.

PHIL 1:

Go forth and press him further. We must have means to defeat this man.


SCENE 7:

DELILAH:

How canst thou say, I love thee, when thy heart is not with me?
Thou hast mocked me these three times, and still
Thou will not tell me wherein they great strength lieth.

SAMSON:

Thou hast pressed me daily with thy words,
And now my soul is vexed as unto death.

I will tell you truly, all my heart and where my strength doth lie:
Since I came forth from my mother's womb,
No razor has come nigh unto my head, for if my head be shaved
All strength from me be gone, and I will be as weak as other men.

DELILAH:

I see that now the truth to me is told, and I thank thee for it.
Lie you now, upon my knees, and let you sleep in comfort,
And the security of my love and concern for you, my Samson.

(Samson sleeps.)
(The Philistines enter and shave his head)

DELILAH:

Wake ye up, my love!
The Philistines are upon you!

SAMSON:

I will go out as have these three times past and shake myself free.
But lo, I am weakened and can feel no strength within me.

(The Philistines enter and pin him to the ground and gouge out his eyes.)

PHIL 2:

He is so weak, his efforts are but feeble.

PHIL 3:

I hold the eyes which once he used to sight us as his enemies.

PHIL 1:

And so for his crimes against our people we will hie him hence
Unto the prison house, where fetters of brass shall bind his limbs.

PHIL 3:

Our god has delivered into our hands our enemy,
The destroyer of our country, who many of us slew.

(Samson is tied between two pillars.13)

SAMSON:

O Lord, My God, God of my forefathers,
I pray you succour me and come to my aid.
Strengthen me, I pray you just this once,
That I may be avenged for the loss of my two14 eyes

Let me die with the Philistines! The enemies of God!

(Samson pulls over the pillars killing all present, including himself.)

GOD:

And so my vengeance was wrought full mightily upon the Philistines.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last,
Let all here be reminded of My Majesty and Might,
And heed the Word of the Lord Your God.







1 Based on Old Testament Book Of Judges, ch: 14, 15 & 16.

2 A play based on biblical stories from Genesis to Revelations, written and performed as part of a cycle, often referred to as Corpus Christi plays because this is when performances took place.

3 Using an opening speech by God was commonly used in medieval mystery and morality plays, eg York Cycle: Creation and Fall of Lucifer (by the Barkers Guild) and Everyman (a 15th C morality play.)

4 By the 13th C the concept of the 7 Virtues and the 7 Deadly Sins was widely accepted across medieval Europe. (Ref. Selbourne, David The City of Light)

5 I have taken a fair bit of artistic licence here as Samson was still within his own homeland when he fought the Philistines. It made more sense dramatically for him to have to journey. Those who wrote the original mystery plays used considerable artistic licence: Noah's nagging wife, Mak the sheepstealer in Wakefield 2nd Shepherd's Pageant.

6 This refers to Samson's wife being burnt to death by the Philistines, in revenge for Samson destroying the crops of the Philistines.

7 The use of belly dancing seemed to be an effective way to show the difference between the Jews and the Philistines, making the most of talents that might be available in an SCA group, just as the guilds who wrote, produced and performed the original mystery cycles, would have made the most of the talents available to their group.

8 Images and similes paraphrased from Song of Solomon ch 7:1-9 and 8:14.

9 Book of Judges ch: 15, verse 5.

10 Book of Judges ch:16 verse 5: The lords of the Philistines offer Delilah 1100 silver pieces from each of them. It is unclear how many of them there were.

11 The King James Version says: "seven green withs", and The Revised Standard Version says: "seven fresh bowstrings". I thought bowstrings would be more comprehensible for an SCA audience.

12 The looms used by the Philistines at this time would have been vertical looms, as floor looms were not commonly used until the late Middle Ages. (Entangling Samson's hair in a floor loom would have required quite some gymnastics on behalf of the sleeping, unsuspecting Samson!)

13 According to Book of Judges a considerable time elapses between Samson being captured and blinded, and the destruction of the Philistines when he causes the temple to collapse. The Bible suggests his hair had started to grow during this time.

14 There is a discrepancy between The King James Version and The Revised Standard Version: the former says "for my two eyes", the latter: "for one of my two eyes".