Tamburlaine the Great

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A drama in blank verse by Marlowe, written not later than 1587, published 1590. It showed an immense advance on the blank verse of Gorboduc and was received with much popular approval.

Part I of the drama deals with the first rise to power of the Scythian shepherd‐robber Tamburlaine, whose unbounded ambition and ruthless cruelty carry all before him. He conquers the Turkish emperor Bajazet and leads him about, a prisoner in a cage, goading him and his empress Zabina with cruel taunts till they dash out their brains against the bars of the cage. His ferocity is softened only by his love for his captive Zenocrate.

Part II deals with the continuation of his conquests, which extend to Babylon, whither he is drawn in a chariot dragged by the kings of Trebizond and Soria, with the kings of Anatolia and Jerusalem as relay, ‘pampered Jades of Asia’ (a phrase quoted by Pistol in Shakespeare, 2 Henry IV, ii, iv); it ends with the death of Zenocrate, and of Tamburlaine himself.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).

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