By Charles Matthews

Friday, May 21, 2010

13. "The Complete Plays," by Christopher Marlowe, pp. 187-240

Tamburlaine the Great, Part Two, Acts 3, 4 and 5 
Callapine, having escaped with the help of Almeda, is crowned emperor of Turkey, the title his father once held. He vows to keep his promise and make Almeda a king, saying that he "is a gentleman, I know, at least." Almeda replies, "That's no matter, sir, for being a king, / For Tamburlaine came up of nothing." And speaking of Tamburlaine, Callapine is determined to get his revenge. 

Tamburlaine, meanwhile, is burning "the turrets of this cursèd town" where Zenocrate died and vowing to turn his sons into warriors, putting them through a rigorous training course. Calyphas protests, "My lord, but this is dangerous to be done. / We may be slain or wounded ere we learn," which of course enrages Tamburlaine so much that he cuts a gash in his own arm to demonstrate how little fear he has. "Now, my boys, what think you of a wound?" Calyphas regards it as "a pitiful sight," but Celebinus and Amyras beg him to give them one, too. Tamburlaine regards it as enough that they should volunteer, and declines, then urges them to set out on a campaign to hunt down Callapine and and "that accursèd traitor Almeda." 

Techelles and Theridamas are laying siege to Balsera, whose captain and his wife, Olympia, and son come out on the walls to hear their demands. Techelles and Theridamas make the usual threats, but the captain vows, "Were you, that are the friends of Tamburlaine, / Brothers to holy Mahomet himself, / I would not yield it." So the attack begins, and ends with the captain mortally wounded. When he dies, Olympia takes a knife and responds to her son's plea, "dispatch me, or I'll kill myself," by stabbing him. But Theridamas enters and stops her before she can kill herself. Admiring her bravery, he says he'll take her to Tamburlaine who "Will match thee with a viceroy or a king." She kneels to Theridamas, begging to be allowed to throw herself on the funeral pyre for her husband and son, but he replies, "Madam, I am so far in love with you / That you must go with us. No remedy." She reluctantly complies. 

A messenger comes to Callapine and Orcanes to say that Tamburlaine's army is near. He and his sons enter, and Usumcasane observes that "your presence makes them pale and wan." Tamburlaine says he'll spare their lives and make them slaves. Callapine is defiant, but Tamburlaine promises that he will make the conquered kings, "harnessed like my horses, draw my coach." Orcanes promises, "first thou shalt kneel to us / And humbly crave a pardon for thy life." Celebinus points out Almeda to Tamburlaine, who denounces his former jailer as "Villain, traitor, damnèd fugitive, / I'll make thee wish the earth had swallowed thee." Callapine retorts by making Almeda a king, but when he offers him the crown, Almeda turns to Tamburlaine to request, "Good my lord, let me take it." This annoys Callapine, but Tamburlaine tells Almeda to take the crown, and when Almeda does, Tamburlaine points out that now that he's a king he'll have to fight. Theridamas and Techelles enter, and points out Almeda to them: 
See ye this rout, and know ye this same king?
Ay, my lord, he was Callapine's keeper. 
TAMBURLAINE Well, now you see he is a king, look to him, Theridamas, when we are fighting lest he hide his crown as the foolish King of Persia did.  
Before the battle, Amyras and Celebinus enter, ready to fight, but Calyphas is still asleep. When they try to wake him to get ready, Calyphas argues that Tamburlaine doesn't need any of them to fight, and that they "will be thought / More childish-valorous than manly-wise." Amyras warns him that their "father hates thy cowardice." Calyphas replies, 
I know, sir, what it is to kill a man. 
It works remorse of conscience in me. 
I take no pleasure to be murderous, 
Nor care for blood when wine will quench my thirst. 
The alarm sounds, and Amyras and Celebinus go off to battle, leaving Calyphas who observes, 
The bullets fly at random where they list, 
And, should I go and kill a thousand men, 
I were as soon rewarded with a shot, 
And sooner far than he that never fights. 
And, should I go and do nor harm nor good, 
I might have harm, which all the good I have, 
Joined with my father's crown, would never cure. 
So he stays and plays cards with Perdicas, agreeing that the winner "shall kiss the fairest of the Turks' concubines first, when my father hath conquered them."

Tamburlaine wins, of course, and enters with the conquered kings, including Orcanes. He praises Amyras and Celebinus for their valor, but denounces Calyphas as "coward -- villain, not my son, / But traitor to my name and majesty." He hauls Calyphas out of his tent, and although Theridamas, Techelles and Usumcasane kneel and beg Tamburlaine to pardon him, he stabs Calyphas. And then then he denounces the gods for giving him a son like Calyphas, 
Wherein was neither courage, strength, or wit, 
But folly, sloth, and damnèd idleness, 
Thou [i.e., Jupiter] hast procured a greater enemy 
Than he that darted mountains at thy head.
He orders his soldiers to 
Ransack the tents and the pavilions 
Of these proud Turks, and take their concubines. 
Make them bury this effeminate brat, 
For not a common soldier shall defile 
His manly fingers with so faint a boy.
And when Jerusalem, Trebizond, Orcanes and Soria denounce his cruelties, he vows to "bridle all your tongues / And bind them close with bits of burnished steel / Down to the channels of your hateful throats."

Olympia is looking for a way to commit suicide rather than yield to Theridamas, who enters and promises that she will "be stately queen of fair Argier." She tells him that she's not interested in hearing love talk: "No such discourse is pleasant in mine ears / But that where every period ends with death / And every line begins with death again." So when he tells her, "I'll use some other means to make you yield," she hits upon an idea. She promises to give him "An ointment which a cunning alchemist / Distillèd" that makes the wearer invulnerable: "Nor pistol, sword, nor lance can pierce your flesh." And to prove it she rubs some on her throat and says, "Now stab, my lord, and mark your weapon's point, / That will be blunted if the blow be great." He falls for it, and kills her, then spends some time blaming himself.

Tamburlaine makes his great entrance with the kings of Trebizond and Soria drawing his chariot. He lashes his whip and cries, "Holla, ye pampered jades of Asia!" Amyras asks for a chance to drive the chariot but Tamburlaine replies, "Thy youth forbids such ease, my kingly boy." Orcanes, who is among the other kings being led in triumph, calls on Pluto "to subdue / This proud contemner of thy dreadful power" and haul Tamburlaine off to hell. Theridamas, who seems to have overcome his grief at killing Olympia, tells Tamburlaine, "Your majesty must get some bits for these, / To bridle their contemptuous cursing tongues," and Techelles suggests just pulling their tongues out. Celebinus puts a bridle on Orcanes. Then they bring the concubines of the captured kings on and give them to the soldiers, who run off to have their way with them. Tamburlaine continues to boast: 
Thorough the streets with troops of conquered kings 
I'll ride in golden armour like the sun, 
And in my helm a triple plume shall spring, 
Spangled with diamonds dancing in the air, 
To note me emperor of the threefold world....
To Babylon, my lords, to Babylon! 

At Babylon, the Governor of the city enters, and listens to pleas to submit to Tamburlaine to save the city from destruction. He's having none of it, of course, and denounces them as "Villains, cowards, traitors to our state!" Theridamas and Techelles enter to warn the Governor to surrender, but he replies, "Assault and spare not. We will never yield." Of course, Tamburlaine's forces win, and Theridamas and Techelles bring to him "The sturdy governor of Babylon, / That made us all the labour for the town / And used such slender reck'ning of your majesty." When Tamburlaine orders him hanged in chains, the governor tries to bargain with him, revealing where he stashed the city's gold in exchange for his life. Tamburlaine sends some soldiers to get the gold and proceeds with the execution anyway. He also orders the kings of Trebizond and Soria hanged, and Orcanes and the king of Jerusalem harnessed to his chariot. When the governor is hanged in chains, he has the others shoot at him.
So, now he hangs like Baghdad's governor, 
Having as many bullets in his flesh 
As there be breaches in her battered wall. 
Go now and bind the burghers hand and foot, 
And cast them headlong in the city's lake. 
When Techelles asks what should be done with their wives and children, Tamburlaine orders them drowned too: "Leave not a Babylonian in the town." Then he tells Usumcasane,
Now, Casane, where's the Turkish Alcoran, 
And all the heaps of superstitious books 
Found in the temples of that Mahomet 
Whom I have thought a god? They shall be burnt....
In vain, I see, men worship Mahomet. 
My sword hath sent millions of Turks to hell, 
Slew all his priests, his kinsmen, and his friends, 
And yet I live untouched by Mahomet. 
It is a final act of hubris, for shortly after the burning of the books and the drowning of the citizens, he says, "But stay, I feel myself distempered suddenly." However, he makes an effort at recovering with his old bluster, "Sickness or death can never conquer me."  

Thinking that Tamburlaine and his army will be "faint and weary with the siege," Callapine and the king of Amasia decide that this is a good time to take them on. They call on Muhammad to aid them in their attempt to conquer Tamburlaine. 

Theridamas, Techelles, and Usumcasane enter to lament Tamburlaine's illness, and Tamburlaine himself enters in his chariot drawn by Orcanes and Jerusalem to defy the gods once again: 
What daring god torments my body thus 
And seeks to conquer mighty Tamburlaine? 
Shall sickness prove me now to be a man, 
That have been termed the terror of the world? ...
Come let us march against the powers of heaven 
And set black streamers in the firmament 
To signify the slaughter of the gods.
He falls back in weakness, but when he hears that Callapine is approaching with his army, he rallies and goes out to confront the enemy: "My looks shall make them fly.... In spite of Death I will go show my face." 

The stratagem works: "Thus are the villains, cowards, fled for fear, / Like summer's vapours vanished by the sun." And he calls for a map, to "see how much / Is left for me to conquer all the world." He outlines his plans but realizes he can't fulfill them: "And shall I die, and this unconquerèd?" He gives the map to his sons, telling them to finish the job, "For Tamburlaine, the scourge of God, must die."

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