By Charles Matthews

Monday, May 17, 2010

9. "The Complete Plays," by Christopher Marlowe, pp. 107-122

Tamburlaine the Great, Part One, Act 3
Bajazeth, the emperor of Turkey, has heard about Tamburlaine's imperial ambitions, and sends an emissary to "charge him to remain in Asia." Bajazeth is rather full of himself: When the king of Argier notes that "all flesh quakes at your magnificence," Bajazeth replies, "True, Argier, and tremble at my looks." Anyway, he's preoccupied with besieging the Greeks in Constantinople.

Zenocrate, meanwhile, has fallen hard for Tambulaine, to the dismay of Agydas. When she proclaims her intent to "live and die with Tamburlaine," he denounces "a man so vile and barbarous, / That holds you from your father in despite," causing gossip that she has become his concubine. "How can you fancy one that looks so fierce?" he asks. She replies,
As looks the sun through Nilus' flowing stream,
Or when the morning holds him in her arms,
So looks my lordly love, fair Tamburlaine;
His talk much sweeter than the Muses' song
They sung for honour 'gainst Pierides,
Or when Minerva did with Neptune strive;
And higher would I rear my estimate
Than Juno, sister to the highest god,
If I were matched with mighty Tamburlaine.
Tamburlaine, having overheard Agydas' opposition, sends Techelles with "a naked dagger." Agydas gets the hint and kills himself.

Tamburlaine has gotten Bajazeth's message, and dismisses it: "Turks are full of brags / And menace more than they can well perform.... / I that am termed the scourge and wrath of God, / The only fear and terror of the world, / Will first subdue the Turk and then enlarge / Those Christian captives which you keep as slaves."  When Bajazeth arrives, Tamburlaine greets him without deference.
Kings of Fez, Moroccus, and Argier,
He calls me Bajazeth, whom you call lord!
Note the presumption of this Scythian slave.
I tell thee, villain, those that lead my horse
Have to their names titles of dignity;
And dar'st thou bluntly call me Bajazeth?
And know thou, Turk, that those which lead my horse
Shall lead thee captive thorough Africa;
And dar'st thou bluntly call me Tamburlaine? 
Bajazeth brings in his wife, Zabina, "to see their overthrow," so Tamburlaine counters by bringing in Zenocrate and telling her to "manage words with her as we will arms." The men go off to battle and the women sit there trading insults. Sure enough, Bajazeth loses and his "stout contributory kings" are killed. Over Zabina's objections, Zenocrate, with the help of Theridamas, takes the Turkish crown from her and crowns Tamburlaine emperor of Africa. Bajazeth is defiant: "Afric and Greece have garrisons enough / To make me sovereign of the earth again." But Tamburlaine assures him, "Those wallèd garrisons will I subdue, / And write myself great lord of Africa," though that's only the beginning: "I'll win the world at last."

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