By Charles Matthews

Saturday, May 15, 2010

7. "The Complete Plays," by Christopher Marlowe, pp. 81-89

Tamburlaine the Great, Part One, Act 1, Scene 2
Tamburlaine has captured Zenocrate, daughter of "The mighty Sultan of Egyptia," who was "travelling with these Median lords / To Memphis, from my uncle's country of Media." The other Medians include Magnetes, who protests that they have letters of passage and "rich presents from the puissant Chan," but Tamburlaine says that "these letters and commands / Are countermanded by a greater man," i.e., himself. Then he begins to flirt with Zenocrate, inquiring if she's betrothed. She says she is, and he boasts that he's a lord, though he was born a shepherd, and that anyone as beautiful as she is should "grace his bed that conquers Asia / And means to be a terror to the world." He takes off his shepherd's cloak and starts putting on armor.

Techelles and Usumcasane vow to follow Tamburlaine, expecting to be made kings in the bargain, but Zenocrate protests that "The gods, defenders of the innocent, / Will never prosper your intended drifts / That thus oppress poor friendless passengers." Agydas offers the treasure they're carrying as ransom, so that they can continue on their way to Syria, "Where her betrothèd, Lord Alcidamus, / Expects th'arrival of her highness' person," and Magnetes promises that they'll "report but well of Tamburlaine" along the way. But Tamburlaine knows what he wants:
Zenocrate, lovelier than the love of Jove,
Brighter than is the silver Rhodope,
Fairer than the whitest snow on Scythian hills,
Thy person is more worth to Tamburlaine
Than the possession of the Persian crown,
Which gracious stars have promised at my birth. 
A soldier enters to report that "A thousand Persian horsemen are at hand, / Sent from the king to overcome us all." Tamburlaine admits that the odds are against him, but Techelles and Usumcasane urge him to fight anyway. Tamburlaine decides they should talk to the Persians first, and orders his soldiers to lay out the gold bars they have seized from Zenocrate's retinue.

Theridamas and his men enter, and are surprised when they meet Tamburlaine, whom they thought a mere "Scythian shepherd":
His looks do menace heaven and dare the gods,
His fiery eyes are fixed upon the earth,
As if he now devised some stratagem,
Or meant to pierce Avernus' darksome vaults
And pull the triple-headed dog from hell. 
Tamburlaine takes Theridamas' measure and appeals to his pride, saying that he deserves "to have the leading of an host" instead of just a thousand men. "Forsake thy king, and do but join with me." He promises Theridamas "martial spoil / Of conquered kingdoms and of cities sacked" and that they will "reign as consuls of the earth."

Theridamas, who knows what a wuss Mycetes is, decides that this sounds like a good deal:
Won with thy words and conquered with thy looks,
I yield myself, my men, and horse to thee,
To be partaker of they good or ill
As long as life maintains Theridamas.
And having won that round, Tambulaine tells Zenocrate and her retinue, "If you will willingly remain with me / You shall have honours as your merits be -- / Or else you shall be forced with slavery." Agydas yields, but Zenocrate isn't happy about it.

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