By Charles Matthews

Thursday, May 20, 2010

12. "The Complete Plays," by Christopher Marlowe, pp. 157-186

Tamburlaine the Great, Part Two, Acts 1 and 2
Yet another king, Orcanes, the king of Natolia, vows to do something about Tamburlaine. This time, the scheme is to join forces with a Christian leader. Gazellus, the viceroy of Byron, explains, 
'Tis requisite to parley for a peace 
With Sigismond the King of Hungary, 
And save our forces for the hot assaults 
Proud Tamburlaine intends Natolia.
Orcanes agrees that despite their considerable forces, which are "Enough to swallow forceless Sigismond," they don't have enough to defeat Tamburlaine, who "brings a world of people to the field." 

Sigismond enters with his retinue, and seems uncertain whether this meeting will result in a peace treaty or a battle, but Gazellus insists, "We came from Turkey to confirm a league, / And not to dare each other to the field." So Sigismond agrees to join forces against Tamburlaine, and swears by "Sweet Jesus Christ, I solemnly protest / And vow to keep this peace inviolable." And Orcanes similarly swears "By sacred Mahomet, the friend of God." And they go off to "banquet and carouse" together. 

Callapine, Bajezeth's son, enters with Almeda, his keeper, to complain about being held by Tamburlaine. Almeda is a little dim: When Callapine starts a sentence with "By Cairo runs --," he protests, "No talk of running, I tell you, sir." So Callapine bribes him by promising that if he helps him escape, "Amongst so many crowns of burnished gold / Choose which thou wilt." Almeda falls for it. 

Tamburlaine, Zenocrate, and their three sons enter, and Zenocrate pleads with her husband to "leave these arms / And save thy sacred person fee from scathe / And dangerous chances of the wrathful war." But he's having none of it, and moreover worries that his sons are not warlike enough, that "they are too dainty for the wars, / Their fingers made to quaver on a lute, / Their arms to hang about a lady's neck," and so on. Zenocrate assures him that "they have their mother's looks, / But when they list, their conquering father's heart." She singles out the youngest, Celebinus, for a recent feat of horsemanship. Tamburlaine commends him: 
If thou wilt love the wars and follow me, 
Thou shalt be made a king and reign with me, 
Keeping in iron cages emperors. 
If thou exceed thy elder brothers' worth 
And shine in complete virtue more than they, 
Thou shalt be king before them, and thy seed 
Shall issue crownèd from their mother's womb.
Celebinus says he's up to the task, and his brother Amyras says he wants to be "the scourge and terror of the world" too, which is what Tamburlaine wants to hear. 

But Calyphas is willing to let his brothers "follow arms" while he accompanies his mother: "They are enough to conquer all the world, / And you have won enough for me to keep." Tamburlaine denounces him as "Bastardly boy, spring from some coward's loins / And not the issue of great Tamburlaine." He warns him that he'll be disinherited unless he learns to "armèd wade up to the chin in blood." Zenocrate worries that such talk will scare the boys, but Celebinus boasts that he would sail a ship through a sea of blood "Ere I would lose the title of a king," and Amyras vows to "swim through pools of blood / Or make a bridge of murdered carcasses" before he would lose such a title. Finally Calyphas volunteers that when he meets the Turkish deputy, "If any man will hold him, I will strike, / And cleave him to the channel with my sword." This isn't quite good enough for Tamburlaine: "Hold him and cleave him, too, or I'll cleave thee, / For we will march against them presently." 

Theridamas, Techelles and Usumcasane enter, and ritually present their crowns to Tamburlaine, who, after commending their valor, returns the crowns. Before setting off to battle, they "banquet and carouse." 

Meanwhile, on the other side, Sigismond is letting himself be persuaded to void the treaty with Orcanes. He protests at first that "This should be teachery and violence / Against the grace of our profession," but Baldwin, the lord of Bohemia, argues that they're not bound by an agreement with a Muslim: "such infidels, / In whom no faith nor true religion rests." Frederick, lord of Buda, says they shouldn't "lose the opportunity / That God hath given to venge our Christians' death / And scourge their foul blasphemous paganism." So Sigismond gives in. 

Orcanes and his retinue are getting ready to fight Tamburlaine when a messenger enters with the news that Sigismond has broken the treaty:
The treacherous army of the Christians, 
Taking advantage of your slender power, 
Comes marching on us and determines straight 
To bid us battle for our dearest lives.
Orcanes denounces them as "Traitors, villains" and shows the "solemn covenants we have both confirmed, / He by his Christ and I by Mahomet." 
Can there be such deceit in Christians, 
Or treason in the fleshly heart of man, 
Whose shape is figure of the highest God? 
And he burns the treaty and himself ask Christ to prove himself by helping the Muslims take revenge against "false Christians":
If thou wilt prove thyself a perfect God 
Worthy the worship of all faithful hearts, 
Be now revenged upon this traitor's soul....
If there be Christ, we shall have victory.
Apparently Christ agrees, because the battle takes place and Sigismond enters, fatally wounded, to say "God hath thundered vengeance from on high" and to die. Orcanes and the others enter in triumph, and though Gazellus calls it "but the fortune of the wars," Sigismond insists, "Yet in my thoughts shall Christ be honourèd, / Not doing Mahomet an injury." And they go off to "celebrae / Our happy conquest." 

Things aren't so happy for Tamburlaine now: Zenocrate is dying. He calls on the gods to receive her, repeating the plea "To entertain [welcome] divine Zenocrate," but when he threatens suicide if she dies, she pleads for him to live: 
For, should I but suspect your death by mine, 
The comfort of my future happiness 
And hope to meet your highness in the heavens, 
Turned to despair, would break my wretched breast, 
And fury would confound my present rest.
She dies, and he goes into a rant, "Raving, impatient, desperate, and mad," and vows "This cursèd town will I consume with fire / Because this place bereft me of my love."

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