By Charles Matthews

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

11. "The Complete Plays," by Christopher Marlowe, pp. 137-153

Tamburlaine the Great, Part One, Act 5
The Governor of Damascus, seeing Tambulaine's tents turn to black, "the last and cruell'st hue," sends four virgins with laurel branches out to plead for mercy. But Tamburlaine tells them it's too late, "when fury and incensèd hate / Flings slaughtering terror from my coal-black tents." Too bad for the virgins: Techelles reports that his horsemen "on Damascus' walls / Have hoisted up their slaughtered carcasses." Tamburlaine orders him to "put the rest to the sword," then stays to fret about how upset Zenocrate is.
But how unseemly is it for my sex, 
My discipline of arms and chivalry, 
My nature, and the terror of my name, 
To harbour thoughts effeminate and faint!
Techelles returns with word that the town has fallen to them, but that the Sultan and the king of Arabia are marching on them. Theridamas urges that the Sultan be spared "For fair Zenocrate that so laments his state," and Tamburlaine agrees. 

Meanwhile, Bajazeth has been brought on in his cage, and Zabina follows him. He rants for a while about what Tamburlaine has done to him: 
O life more loathsome to my vexèd thoughts
Than noisome parbreak of the Stygian snakes 
Which fills the nooks of hell with standing air, 
Infecting all the ghosts with cureless griefs!
And when he sends Zabina out to fetch a drink of water, he rants some more and then bashes his brains out on the bars of his cage. When Zabina sees what he has done, she has a little mad scene -- "Tamburlaine, Tamburlaine! Let the soldiers be buried. Hell, death, Tamburlaine, hell! Make ready my coach, my chair, my jewels. I come, I come, I come!" -- and bashes her own brains out. 

Zenocrate, fretting about what has happened to Damascus, enters and finds the bodies of Bajazeth and Zabina. Anippe says, "Ah, madam, this their slavery hath enforced, / And ruthless cruelty of Tamburlaine." And Zenocrate adds, "Blush, heaven, that gave them honour at their birth, / And let them die a death so barbarous!" 
Ah, Tamburlaine, my love, sweet Tamburlaine, 
That fight'st for sceptres and for slippery crowns, 
Behold the Turk and his great emperess! 
Thou that in conduct of thy happy stars, 
Sleep'st every night with conquest on thy brows, 
And yet wouldst shun the wavering turns of war, 
In fear and feeling of the like distress, 
Behold the Turk and his great emperess! 
A messenger enters to tell her that the Sultan and the king of Arabia are about to do battle, and she frets, "My father and my first betrothèd love / Must fight against my life and present love / ... With happy safety of my father's life / Send like defence of fair Arabia." But Arabia is not so lucky, and enters mortally wounded. Fortunately, he gets to see Zenocrate again before he dies. 

Then Tamburlaine enters with the Sultan, telling him that Zenocrate has successfully pleaded for his life. The Sultan accepts his fate: 
Mighty hath God and Mahomet made thy hand, 
Renownèd Tamburlaine, to whom all kings 
Of force must yield their crowns and emperies, 
And I am pleased with this my overthrow 
If, as beseems a person of thy state, 
Thou has with honour used Zenocrate.
Tamburlaine assures him that he has done so, and the Sultan yields "with thanks and protestations / Of endless honour to thee for her love." Tamburlaine crowns Zenocrate "queen of Persia / And all the kingdoms and dominions / That late the power of Tamburlaine subdued." He also orders that her "first betrothèd love, Arabia / Shall we with honor as beseems, entomb / With this great Turk and his fair emperess." And they all go off to see Tamburlaine and Zenocrate married. 

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