One of the smash hits of the late 1580s and 90s, Tamburlaine established blank verse as the poetic line of English Renaissance drama, Edward Alleyn as the first English star actor and Marlowe as one of the foremost playwrights of his time. The rise and fall of a
Scythian peasant-warrior who conquers the Middle East and is struck down by illness after burbaning the books of the Koran is presented in two parts crammed with theatrical splendour and equally spectacular cruelty. Marlowe's original audiences were delighted with the blasphemous and ruthlessly ambitious hero; the introduction to this edition discusses the problems that such a character poses for modern audiences and highlights the undercurrents of the play that lead towards a more ironic interpretation.
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By Christopher Marlowe, THOMAS CRAWFORD
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2002 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ACT THE FIRST
Enter MYCETES, COSROE, MEANDER, THERIDAMAS, ORTYGIUS, CENEUS, MENAPHON, with others.
MYC. Brother Cosroe, I find myself aggrieved,
Yet insufficient to express the same;
For it requires a great and thundering speech:
Good brother, tell the cause unto my lords;
I know you have a better wit than I.
COS. Unhappy Persia, that in former age
Hast been the seat of mighty conquerors,
That, in their prowess and their policies,
Have triumphed over Afric and the bounds
Of Europe, where the sun scarce dares appear
For freezing meteors and congealed cold,
Now to be ruled and governed by a man
At whose birthday Cynthia with Saturn joined,
And Jove, the Sun, and Mercury denied
To shed their influence in his fickle brain!
Now Turks and Tartars shake their swords at thee,
Meaning to mangle all thy provinces.
MYC. Brother, I see your meaning well enough,
And through your planets I perceive you think
I am not wise enough to be a king;
But I refer me to my noblemen
That know my wit, and can be witnesses.
I might command you to be slain for this:
Meander, might I not?
MEAND. Not for so small a fault, my sovereign lord.
MYC. I mean it not, but yet I know I might;
Yet live; yea live, Mycetes wills it so.
Meander, thou, my faithful counsellor,
Declare the cause of my conceivèd grief,
Which is, God knows, about that Tamburlaine,
That, like a fox in midst of harvest time,
Doth prey upon my flocks of passengers;
And, as I hear, doth mean to pull my plumes:
Therefore 'tis good and meet for to be wise.
MEAND. Oft have I heard your majesty complain
Of Tamburlaine, that sturdy Scythian thief,
That robs your merchants of Persepolis
Trading by land unto the Western Isles,
And in your confines with his lawless train
Daily commits incivil outrages,
Hoping (misled by dreaming prophecies)
To reign in Asia, and with barbarous arms
To make himself the monarch of the East;
But ere he march in Asia, or display
His vagrant ensign in the Persian fields,
Your grace hath taken order by Theridamas,
Charged with a thousand horse, to apprehend
And bring him captive to your highness' throne.
MYC. Full true thou speak'st, and like thyself, my lord,
Whom I may term a Damon for thy love:
Therefore 'tis best, if so it like you all,
To send my thousand horse incontinent
To apprehend that paltry Scythian.
How like you this, my honourable lords?
Is't not a kingly resolution?
Cos. It cannot choose, because it comes from you.
MYC. Then hear thy charge, valiant Theridamas,
The chiefest captain of Mycetes' host,
The hope of Persia, and the very legs
Whereon our State doth lean as on a staff
That holds us up, and foils our neighbour foes:
Thou shalt be leader of this thousand horse,
Whose foaming gall with rage and high disdain
Have sworn the death of wicked Tamburlaine.
Go frowning forth; but come thou smiling home,
As did Sir Paris with the Grecian dame;
Return with speed—time passeth swift away;
Our life is frail, and we may die to-day.
THER. Before the moon renew her borrowed light,
Doubt not, my lord and gracious sovereign,
But Tamburlaine and that Tartarian rout,
Shall either perish by our warlike hands,
Or plead for mercy at your highness' feet.
MYC. Go, stout Theridamas, thy words are swords,
And with thy looks thou conquerest all thy foes;
I long to see thee back return from thence,
That I may view these milk-white steeds of mine
All loaden with the heads of killed men,
And from their knees e'en to their hoofs below
Besmeared with blood that makes a dainty show.
THER. Then now, my lord, I humbly take my leave.
MYC. Theridamas, farewell! ten thousand times.
Ah, Menaphon, why stay'st thou thus behind,
When other men press forward for renown?
Go, Menaphon, go into Scythia;
And foot by foot follow Theridamas.
COS. Nay, pray you let him stay; a greater task
Fits Menaphon than warring with a thief:
Create him Prorex of all Africa,
That he may win the Babylonians' hearts
Which will revolt from Persian government,
Unless they have a wiser king than you.
MYC. "Unless they have a wiser king than you."
These are his words; Meander, set them down.
COS. And add this to them–that all Asia
Laments to see the folly of their king.
MYC. Well, here I swear by this my royal seat,–
COS. You may do well to kiss it then.
MYC. Embossed with silk as best beseems my state,
To be revenged for these contemptuous words.
Oh, where is duty and allegiance now?
Fled to the Caspian or the Ocean main?
What shall i call thee? brother?—no, a foe;
Monster of nature!—shame unto thy stock
That dar'st presume thy sovereign for to mock!
Meander, come: I am abused, Meander.
[Exeunt all but COSROE and MENAPHON.
MEN. How now, my lord? What, mated and amazed
To hear the king thus threaten like himself!
COS. Ah, Menaphon, I pass not for his threats;
The plot is laid by Persian noblemen
And captains of the Median garrisons
To crown me Emperor of Asia:
But this it is that doth excruciate
The very substance of my vexèd soul—
To see our neighbours that were wont to quake
And tremble at the Persian monarch's name,
Now sit and laugh our regiment to scorn;
And that which might resolve me into tears,
Men from the farthest equinoctial line
Have swarmed in troops into the Eastern India,
Lading their ships with gold and precious stones,
And made their spoils from all our provinces.
MEN. This should entreat your highness to rejoice,
Since Fortune gives you opportunity
To gain the title of a conqueror
By curing of this maimed empery.
Afric and Europe bordering on your land,
And continent to your dominions,
How easily may you, with a mighty host,
Pass into Græcia, as did Cyrus once,
And cause them to withdraw their forces home,
Lest you subdue the pride of Christendom.
COS. But, Menaphon, what means this trumpet's sound?
MEN. Behold, my lord, Ortygius and the rest
Bringing the Crown to make you Emperor!
Enter ORTYGIUS and CENEUS, with others, bearing a crown.
ORTY. Magnificent and mighty Prince Cosroe,
We, in the name of other Persian States
And Commons of the mighty monarchy,
Present thee with the imperial diadem.
CEN. The warlike soldiers and the gentlemen,
That heretofore have filled Persepolis
With Afric captains taken in the field,
Whose ransom made them march in coats of gold,
With costly jewels hanging at their ears,
And shining stones upon their lofty crests,
Now living idle in the wallèd towns,
Wanting both pay and martial discipline,
Begin in troops to threaten civil war,
And openly exclaim against their king:
Therefore, to stop all sudden mutinies,
We will invest your highness Emperor,
Whereat the soldiers will conceive more joy
Than did the Macedonians at the spoil
Of great Darius and his wealthy host.
COS. Well, since I see the state of Persia droop
And languish in my brother's government,
I willingly receive the imperial crown,
And vow to wear it for my country's good,
In spite of them shall malice my estate.
ORTY. And in assurance of desired success,
We here do crown thee monarch of the East,
Emperor of Asia and Persia;
Great Lord of Media and Armenia;
Duke of Africa and Albania,
Mesopotamia and of Parthia,
East India and the late-discovered isles;
Chief Lord of all the wide, vast Euxine sea,
And of the ever-raging Caspian lake.
ALL. Long live Cosroe, mighty Emperor!
COS. And Jove may never let me longer live
Than I may seek to gratify your love,
And cause the soldiers that thus honour me
To triumph over many provinces!
By whose desire of discipline in arms
I doubt not shortly but to reign sole king,
And with the army of Theridamas,
(Whither we presently will fly, my lords)
To rest secure against my brother's force.
ORTY. We knew, my lord, before we brought the crown,
Intending your investion so near
The residence of your despisèd brother,
The lords would not be too exasperate
To injury or suppress your worthy title;
Or, if they would, there are in readiness
Ten thousand horse to carry you from hence,
In spite of all suspected enemies.
COS. I know it well, my lord, and thank you all.
ORTY. Sound up the trumpets then.
ALL. God save the King!
Enter TAMBURLAINE leading ZENOCRATE, TECHELLES, USUMCASANE, AGYDAS, MAGNETES, LORDS, and SOLDIERS, laden with treasure.
TAMB. Come, lady, let not this appal your thoughts;
The jewels and the treasure we have ta'en
Shall be reserved, and you in better state,
Than if you were arrived in Syria,
Even in the circle of your father's arms,
The mighty Soldan of Ægyptia.
ZENO. Ah, shepherd! pity my distressèd plight,
(If, as thou seem'st, thou art so mean a man),
And seek not to enrich thy followers
By lawless rapine from a silly maid,
Who travelling with these Median lords
To Memphis, from my uncle's country of Media,
Where all my youth I have been governèd,
Have passed the army of the mighty Turk,
Bearing his privy signet and his hand
To safe conduct us thorough Africa.
MAG. And since we have arrived in Scythia,
Besides rich presents from the puissant Cham,
We have his highness' letters to command
Aid and assistance, if we stand in need.
TAMB. But now you see these letters and commands
Are countermanded by a greater man;
And through my provinces you must expect
Letters of conduct from my mightiness,
If you intend to keep your treasure safe.
But, since I love to live at liberty,
As easily may you get the Soldan's crown
As any prizes out of my precinct;
For they are friends that help to wean my state
'Till men and kingdoms help to strengthen it,
And must maintain my life exempt from servitude.—
But, tell me, madam, is your grace betrothed?
ZENO. I am—my lord—for so you do import.
TAMB. I am a lord, for so my deeds shall prove:
And yet a shepherd by my parentage.
But, lady, this fair face and heavenly hue
Must grace his bed that conquers Asia,
And means to be a terror to the world,
Measuring the limits of his empery
By east and west, as Phbus doth his course.
Lie here, ye weeds that I disdain to wear!
This complete armour and this curtle-axe
Are adjuncts more beseeming Tamburlaine.
And, madam, whatsoever you esteem
Of this success, and loss unvaluèd,
Both may invest you Empress of the East;
And these that seem but silly country swains
May have the leading of so great an host,
As with their weight shall make the mountains quake,
Even as when windy exhalations
Fighting for passage, tilt within the earth.
TECH. As princely lions, when they rouse themselves,
Stretching their paws, and threatening herds of beasts,
So in his armour looketh Tamburlaine.
Methinks I see kings kneeling at his feet,
And he with frowning brows and fiery looks,
Spurning their crowns from off their captive heads.
USUM. And making thee and me, Techelles, kings,
That even to death will follow Tamburlaine.
TAMB. Nobly resolved, sweet friends and followers!
These lords, perhaps do scorn our estimates,
And think we prattle with distempered spirits;
But since they measure our deserts so mean,
That in conceit bear empires on our spears,
Affecting thoughts coequal with the clouds,
They shall be kept our forced followers,
Till with their eyes they view us emperors.
ZENO. The gods, defenders of the innocent,
Will never prosper your intended drifts,
That thus oppress poor friendless passengers.
Therefore at least admit us liberty,
Even as thou hopest to be eternised,
By living Asia's mighty Emperor.
AGYD. I hope our ladies' treasure and our own,
May serve for ransom to our liberties:
Return our mules and empty camels back,
That we may travel into Syria,
Where her betrothed lord Alcidamas,
Expects th' arrival of her highness' person.
MAG. And wheresoever we repose ourselves,
We will report but well of Tamburlaine.
TAMB. Disdains Zenocrate to live with me?
Or you, my lords, to be my followers?
Think you I weigh this treasure more than you?
Not all the gold in India's wealthy arms
Shall buy the meanest soldier in my train.
Zenocrate, lovelier than the love of Jove,
Brighter than is the silver Rhodope,
Fairer than whitest snow on Scythian hills,—
Thy person is more worth to Tamburlaine,
Which gracious stars have promised at my birth.
A hundred Tartars shall attend on thee,
Mounted on steeds swifter than Pegasus;
Thy garments shall be made of Median silk,
Enchased with precious jewels of mine own,
More rich and valurous than Zenocrate's.
With milk-white harts upon an ivory sled,
Thou shalt be drawn amidst the frozen pools,
And scale the icy mountains' lofty tops,
Which with thy beauty will be soon resolved.
My martial prizes with five hundred men,
Won on the fifty-headed Volga's waves,
Shall we all offer to Zenocrate,—
And then myself to fair Zenocrate.
TECH. What now!—in love?
TAMB. Techelles, women must be flattered:
But this is she with whom I am in love.
Enter a Soldier.
SOLD. News! news!
TAMB. How now—what's the matter?
SOLD. A thousand Persian horsemen are at hand,
Sent from the king to overcome us all.
TAMB. How now, my lords of Egypt, and Zenocrate!
How!—must your jewels be restored again,
And I, that triumphed so, be overcome?
How say you, lordlings,—is not this your hope?
AGYD. We hope yourself will willingly restore them.
TAMB. Such hope, such fortune, have the thousand horse.
Soft ye, my lords, and sweet Zenocrate!
You must be forcèd from me ere you go.
A thousand horsemen!—We five hundred foot!—
An odds too great for us to stand against.
But are they rich?—And is their armour good?
SOLD. Their plumed helms are wrought with beaten gold,
Their swords enamelled, and about their necks
Hang massy chains of gold, down to the waist,
In every part exceeding brave and rich.
TAMB. Then shall we fight courageously with them?
Or look you I should play the orator?
TECH. No: cowards and faint-hearted runaways
Look for orations when the foe is near:
Our swords shall play the orator for us.
USUM. Come! let us meet them at the mountain top,
And with a sudden and a hot alarum,
Drive all their horses headlong down the hill.
TECH. Come, let us march!
TAMB. Stay, Techelles! ask a parley first.
The Soldiers Enter.
Open the mails, yet guard the treasure sure;
Lay out our golden wedges to the view,
That their reflections may amaze the Persians;
And look we friendly on them when they come;
But if they offer word or violence,
We'll fight five hundred men-at-arms to one,
Before we part with our possession.
And 'gainst the general we will lift our swords,
And either lance his greedy thirsting throat,
Or take him prisoner, and his chain shall serve
For manacles, till he be ransomed home.
TECH. I hear them come; shall we encounter them?
TAMB. Keep all your standings and not stir a foot,
Myself will bide the danger of the brunt.
Enter THERIDAMAS and others.
THER. Where is this Scythian Tamburlaine?
TAMB. Whom seek'st thou, Persian?—I am Tamburlaine.
Excerpted from Tamburlaine by Christopher Marlowe, THOMAS CRAWFORD. Copyright © 2002 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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