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Tamberlane was a proverbial term for a bully. To turn Turk, in our old dramatists, is generally used for a change of situation, occupation, mode of thought or action. Tamberlane is said to have mounted his horse from the back of Bajazet, the Turkish emperor. Christopher Marlowe wrote the play "Tamburlaine the Great" subtitled "Who, from the state of a Shepherd in Scythia, by his rare and wonderful Conquests, became a most puissant and Mighty Monarch." The authorship of Tamburlaine [printed as early as 1590], Faustus, and the rest, is absolutely undisturbed by any cogent criticism whatever, that it is per se incontrovertible, and that the plays have always passed under the name of that unfortunate genius, young Kit Marlowe, who was stabbed before he was thirty. All the best critics have acknowledged this, and have also said that none of Shakespeare's predecessors came so near to his genius and power as did Marlowe. Ben Jonson, in his Discoveries, said "The true artificer will not fly from humanity with the Tamerlanes and Tamer-Chams of the late age, which had nothing in them but the scenical strutting and furious vociferation to warrant them to the ignorant gapers." But one can hardly believe that Ben Jonson is really referring to the famous play Tamburlaine at all, but to some play Tamerlane on which Tamburlaine was built. For why should the form Tamerlane be written by Ben when every edition of the play has Tamburlaine? Marlowe [b. 1564; d. 1593] created English tragedy anew. He was the first great Englsh dramatist, and he prepared the way for Shakespeare. He threw aside Senecan traditions and devoted himself to meeting the demands of the London theatres, but the prologue to his first play was a declaration of reform, announcing the adoption of blank verse, heroic themes, and "high astounding terms." Blank verse proper, that is, unrhymed iambic pentameter measure, was highly developed by Marlowe in 'Tamburlaine the Great' and other dramas, was brought to perfection by Shakespeare, and since his time has been the generally accepted medium for English dramatic poetry. A letter by Thomas Nash, prefixed to Greene's Menaphon, published in 1587, condemns the recent introduction of blank verse upon the stage, and it was Marlowe, in his Tamburlaine, who introduced it. Marlowe's themes were novel, and his treatment of them seems to have been dictated by a conception of tragedy, formed independently of his predecessors, - the heroic struggle of a great personality doomed to inevitable defeat. A protagonist distinguished by great passions and many crimes absorbs the interest of a series of scenes, brutal and sensational, full of violent action, ranting declamation, bloodshed, and villainy affording opportunity for elaborate theatrical spectacles, and adorned by passages of profound intellectual suggestiveness and extraordinary beauty of diction and melody. 'Tamburlaine' is hardly a tragedy at all, but rather a chronicle of the hero's greatness, a display of pride in the strong arm of the flesh defying Heaven. Marlowe represented his swelling pride, that braved at last the Gods themselves, in bombastic phrase, but with the grand energy of a young poet who had also realms to conquer. Christopher Marlowe was killed in a tavern brawl at the age of twenty-nine.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:36:11 ZULU