By Charles Matthews

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

10. "The Complete Plays," by Christopher Marlowe, pp. 123-136

Tamburlaine the Great, Part One, Act 4
Yet another potentate comes in to boast about how he's going to vanquish Tamburlaine. This time it's the Sultan  of Egypt, incensed that "The rogue of Volga holds Zenocrate, / The Sultan's daughter, for his concubine." Advised that Tamburlaine has been successful so far in his campaign and that his army has grown large, the Sultan proclaims, "Yet would the Sultan by his conquering power / So scatter and consume them in his rage / That not a man should live to rue their fall." The messenger bringing the news advises that the first day Tamburlaine arrives on the scene, he pitches white tents, "But when Aurora mounts the second time, / As red as scarlet is his furniture," and if the foe doesn't surrender, "Black are his colours, black pavilion, / His spear, his shield, his horse, his armour, plumes, / And jetty feathers menace death and hell." The Sultan is undeterred, however.

So Tamburlaine and his company enter in white, with Bajazeth in his cage cursing Tamburlaine every step of the way. Tamburlaine orders Bajazeth to "Fall prostrate on the low, disdainful earth / And be the footstool of great Tamburlaine, / That I may rise into my royal throne." Bajazeth is forced to comply. When Zabina protests this treatment of her husband, Tamburlaine tells Zenocrate to "look better to your slave," but Zenocrate points out that Zabina is really her maid's slave, and lets Anippe do the tongue-lashing. And Tamburlaine vows that "Not all the kings and emperors of the earth, / If they would lay their crowns before my feet, / Shall ransom him or take him from his cage." Theridamas says, "I doubt not but the governor will yield, / Offering Damascus to your majesty." Tamburlaine replies,
But if he stay until the bloody flag
Be once advanced on my vermilion tent,
He dies, and those that kept us out so long.
And when they see me march in black array,
With mournful streamers hanging down their heads,
Were in that city all the world contained,
Not one should 'scape, but perish by our swords.
They leave, and the Sultan enters to denounce "bloody Tamburlaine" some more. The king of Arabia asks if the Sultan has heard about "The overthrow of mighty Bajazeth." The Sultan has, and vows,
That Tamburlaine shall rue the day, the hour,
Wherein he wrought such ignominious wrong
Unto the hallowed person of a prince,
Or kept the fair Zenocrate so long
As concubine, I fear, to feed his lust. 
Arabia is hopeful -- "My mind presageth fortunate success" -- and the drums sound and they march off to encounter Tamburlaine.

Tamburlaine et al. are now decked out in scarlet and feasting, while teasing Bajazeth and Zabina with the food. Bajazeth takes the meat offered and trample it under foot, and pours the water they give him on the ground. Zenocrate, meanwhile, is upset to see Damascus under siege, and tries to persuade Tamburlaine to "raise your siege from fair Damascus' walls / And with my father take a friendly truce." Tamburlaine will only say that her father "shall be safe, / And all the friends of fair Zenocrate." Then he taunts Bajazeth some more by crowning Theridamas king of Argier, Techelles king of Fez, and Usumcasane king of Moroccus. Theridamas says that if they don't prove worthy of the honor, "Take them away again and make us slaves."
Well said, Theridamas! When holy Fates 
Shall 'stablish me in strong Egyptia, 
We mean to travel to th'Antarctic Pole, 
Conquering the people underneath our feet, 
And be renowned as never emperors were. 
Zenocrate, I will not crown thee yet, 
Until with greater honours I be graced.

No comments:

Post a Comment