Front Page Titles (by Subject) TAMBURLAINE THE GREAT. Part the first.: ACT THE FIRST. - The Works of Christopher Marlowe vol. 1
TAMBURLAINE THE GREAT. Part the first.: ACT THE FIRST. - Christopher Marlowe, The Works of Christopher Marlowe vol. 1 
The Works of Christopher Marlowe, ed. A.H. Bullen (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885). Vol. 1.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TAMBURLAINE THE GREAT.
Part the first.
ACT THE FIRST.
EnterMycetes, Cosroe, Meander, Theridamas, Ortygius, Ceneus, Menaphon, with others.
- Brother Cosroe, I find myself aggrieved,
- Yet insufficient to express the same;
- For it requires a great and thundering speech:
- Good brother, tell the cause unto my Lords;
- I know you have a better wit than I.
- Unhappy Persia, that in former age
- Hast been the seat of mighty conquerors,
- That, in their prowess and their policies,
- Have triumphed over Afric and the bounds
- Of Europe, where the sun scarce dares appear
- For freezing meteors and congealéd cold,
- Now to be ruled and governed by a man
- At whose birthday Cynthia with Saturn joined,
- And Jove, the Sun, and Mercury denied
- To shed their influence in his fickle brain!
- Now Turks and Tartars shake their swords at thee,
- Meaning to mangle all thy provinces.
- Brother, I see your meaning well enough,
- And through your planets I perceive you think
- I am not wise enough to be a king;
- But I refer me to my noblemen
- That know my wit, and can be witnesses.
- I might command you to be slain for this:
- Meander, might I not?
- Not for so small a fault, my sovereign lord.
- I mean it not, but yet I know I might;
- Yet live; yea live, Mycetes wills it so.
- Meander, thou, my faithful counsellor,
- Declare the cause of my conceivéd grief,
- Which is, God knows, about that Tamburlaine,
- That, like a fox in midst of harvest time,
- Doth prey upon my flocks of passengers;
- And, as I hear, doth mean to pull my plumes:
- Therefore 'tis good and meet for to be wise.
- Oft have I heard your Majesty complain
- Of Tamburlaine, that sturdy Scythian thief,
- That robs your merchants of Persepolis
- Trading by land unto the Western Isles,
- And in your confines with his lawless train
- Daily commits incivil outrages,
- Hoping (misled by dreaming prophecies)
- To reign in Asia, and with barbarous arms
- To make himself the monarch of the East;
- But ere he march in Asia, or display
- His vagrant ensign in the Persian fields,
- Your Grace hath taken order by Theridamas,
- Charged with a thousand horse, to apprehend
- And bring him captive to your Highness' throne.
- Full true thou speak'st, and like thyself, my Lord,
- Whom I may term a Damon for thy love:
- Therefore 'tis best, if so it like you all,
- To send my thousand horse incontinent
- To apprehend that paltry Scythian,
- How like you this, my honourable Lords?
- Is't not a kingly resolution?
- It cannot choose, because it comes from you.
- Then hear thy charge, valiant Theridamas,
- The chiefest captain of Mycetes' host,
- The hope of Persia, and the very legs
- Whereon our State doth lean as on a staff,
- That holds us up, and foils our neighbour foes:
- Thou shall be leader of this thousand horse,
- Whose foaming gall with rage and high disdain
- Have sworn the death of wicked Tamburlaine.
- Go frowning forth; but come thou smiling home,
- As did sir Pairs with the Grecian dame;
- Return with speed—time passeth swift away;
- Our life is frail, and we may die to-day.
- Before the moon renew her borrowed light,
- Doubt not, my Lord and gracious Sovereign,
- But Tamburlaine and that Tartarian rout,
- Shall either perish by our warlike hands,
- Or plead for mercy at your Highness' feet.
- Go, stout Theridamas, thy words are swords,
- And with thy looks thou conquerest all thy foes;
- I long to see thee back return from thence,
- That I may view these milk-white steeds of mine
- All loaden with the heads of killed men,
- And from their knees e'en to their hoofs below
- Besmeared with blood that makes a dainty show.
- Then now, my Lord, I humbly take my leave.
- Theridamas, farewell! ten thousand times.
- Ah, Menaphon, why stay'st thou thus behind,
- When other men press forward for renown?
- Go, Menaphon, go into Scythia;
- And foot by foot follow Theridamas.
- Nay, pray you let him stay; a greater [task]
- Fits Menaphon than warring with a thief:
- Create him Prorex of all Africa,
- That he may win the Babylonians' hearts
- Which will revolt from Persian government,
- Unless they have a wiser king than you.
- “Unless they have a wiser king than you.”
- These are his words; Meander, set them down.
- And add this to them—that all Asia
- Laments to see the folly of their king.
- Well, here I swear by this my royal seat,—
- You may do well to kiss it then.
- Embossed with silk as best beseems my state,
- To be revenged for these contemptuous words.
- Oh, where is duty and allegiance now?
- Fled to the Caspian or the Ocean main?
- What shall I call thee? brother?—no, a foe;
- Monster of nature!—Shame unto thy stock
- That dar'st presume thy sovereign for to mock!
- Meander, come: I am abused, Meander.
- All go out butCosroeandMenaphon.
- How now, my Lord? What, mated and amazed
- To hear the king thus threaten like himself!
- Ah, Menaphon, I pass not for his threats;
- The plot is laid by Persian noblemen
- And captains of the Median garrisons
- To crown me emperor of Asia:
- But this it is that doth excruciate
- The very substance of my vexéd soul—
- To see our neighbours that were wont to quake
- And tremble at the Persian monarch's name,
- Now sit and laugh our regiment to scorn;
- And that which might resolve me into tears,
- Men from the farthest equinoctial line
- Have swarmed in troops into the Eastern India,
- Lading their ships with gold and precious stones,
- And made their spoils from all our provinces.
- This should entreat your highness to rejoice,
- Since Fortune gives you opportunity
- To gain the title of a conqueror
- By curing of this maiméd empery.
- Afric and Europe bordering on your land,
- And continent to your dominions,
- How easily may you, with a mighty host,
- Pass into Grascia, as did Cyrus once,
- And cause them to withdraw their forces home,
- Lest you subdue the pride of Christendom.
- But, Menaphon, what means this trumpet's sound?
- Men, Behold, my lord, Ortygius and the rest
- Bringing the crown to make you emperor!
- EnterOrtygiusandCeneus,with others, bearing a Crown.
- Magnificent and mighty Prince Cosroe,
- We, in the name of other Persian states
- And Commons of the mighty monarchy,
- Present thee with the imperial diadem.
- The warlike soldiers and the gentlemen,
- That heretofore have filled Persepolis
- With Afric captains taken in the field,
- Whose ransom made them march in coats of gold,
- With costly jewels hanging at their ears,
- And shining stones upon their lofty crests,
- Now living idle in the walled towns,
- Wanting both pay and martial discipline,
- Begin in troops to threaten civil war,
- And openly exclaim against their king:
- Therefore, to stop all sudden mutinies,
- We will invest your highness emperor,
- Whereat the soldiers will conceive more joy,
- Than did the Macedonians at the spoil
- Of great Darius and his wealthy host.
- Well, since I see the state of Persia droop
- And languish in my brother's government,
- I willingly receive the imperial crown,
- And vow to wear it for my country's good,
- In spite of them shall malice my estate.
- And in assurance of desired success,
- We here do crown thee monarch of the East,
- Emperor of Asia and Persia;
- Great Lord of Media and Armenia;
- Duke of Africa and Albania,
- Mesopotamia and of Parthia,
- East India and the late-discovered isles;
- Chief lord of all the wide, vast Euxine Sea,
- And of the ever-raging Caspian Lake.
- Long live Cosroe, mighty emperor!
- And Jove may never let me longer live
- Than I may seek to gratify your love,
- And cause the soldiers that thus honour me
- To triumph over many provinces!
- By whose desire of discipline in arms
- I doubt not shortly but to reign sole king,
- And with the army of Theridamas,
- (Whither we presently will fly, my lords)
- To rest secure against my brother's force.
- We knew, my lord, before we brought the crown,
- Intending your investion so near
- The residence of your despisèd brother,
- The lords would not be too exasperate
- To injury or suppress your worthy title;
- Or, if they would, there are in readiness
- Ten thousand horse to carry you from hence,
- In spite of all suspected enemies.
- I know it well, my lord, and thank you all.
- Orty, Sound up the trumpets then.
- [Trumpets sound.
- God save the king!
- [Exeunt omnes.
EnterTamburlaineleadingZenocrate, Techelles, Usumcasane, Agydas, Machetes, Lords, and Soldiers, loaden with treasure.
- Come, lady, let not this appal your thoughts;
- The jewels and the treasure we have ta'en
- Shall be reserved, and you in better state,
- Than if you were arrived in Syria,
- Even in the circle of your father's arms,
- The mighty soldan of Ægyptia.
- Ah, shepherd! pity my distresséd plight,
- (If, as thou seem'st, thou art so mean a man,)
- And seek not to enrich thy followers
- By lawless rapine from a silly maid,
- Who travelling with these Median lords
- To Memphis, from my uncle's country of Media,
- Where all my youth I have been governéd,
- Have past the army of the mighty Turk,
- Bearing his privy signet and his hand
- To safe conduct us thorough Africa.
- And since we have arrived in Scythia,
- Besides rich presents from the puissant Cham,
- We have his highness' letters to command
- Aid and assistance, if we stand in need.
- But now you see these letters and commands
- Are countermanded by a greater man;
- And through my provinces you must expect
- Letters of conduct from my mightiness,
- If you intend to keep your treasure safe.
- But, since I love to live at liberty,
- As easily may you get the soldan's crown
- As any prizes out of my precinct;
- For they are friends that help to wean my state
- 'Till men and kingdoms help to strengthen it,
- And must maintain my life exempt from servitude.—
- But, tell me, madam, is your grace betrothed?
- I am—my lord—for so you do import.
- I am a lord, for so my deeds shall prove:
- And yet a shepherd by my parentage.
- But, lady, this fair face and heavenly hue
- Must grace his bed that conquers Asia,
- And means to be a terror to the world,
- Measuring the limits of his empery
- By east and west, as Phoebus doth his course.
- Lie here ye weeds that I disdain to wear!
- This complete armour and this curtle axe
- Are adjuncts more beseeming Tamburlame.
- And, madam, whatsoever you esteem
- Of this success and loss unvaluéd,
- Both may invest you empress of the East;
- And these that “seem but silly country swains
- May have the leading of so great an host,
- As with their weight shall make the mountains quake,
- Even as when windy exhalations
- Fighting for passage, tilt within the earth.
- As princely lions, when they rouse themselves,
- Stretching their paws, and threatening herds of beasts,
- So in his armour looketh Tamburlaine.
- Methinks I see kings kneeling at his feet,
- And he with frowning brows and fiery looks,
- Spurning their crowns from off their captive heads.
- And making thee and me, Techelles, kings,
- That even to death will follow Tamburlaine.
- Nobly resolved, sweet friends and followers!
- These Lords, perhaps do scorn our estimates,
- And think we prattle with distempered spirits;
- But since they measure our deserts so mean,
- That in conceit bear empires on our spears,
- Affecting thoughts coequal with the clouds,
- They shall be kept our forcéd followers,
- Till with their eyes they view us emperors.
- The Gods, defenders of the innocent,
- Will never prosper your intended drifts,
- That thus oppress poor friendless passengers.
- Therefore at least admit us liberty,
- Even as thou hopest to be eterniséd,
- By living Asia's mighty emperor.
- I hope our ladies' treasure and our own,
- May serve for ransom to our liberties:
- Return our mules and empty camels back,
- That we may travel into Syria,
- Where her betrothèd lord Alcidamas,
- Expects th' arrival of her highness' person.
- And wheresoever we repose ourselves,
- We will report but well of Tamburlaine.
- Disdains Zenocrate to live with me?
- Or you, my lords, to be my followers?
- Think you I weigh this treasure more than you?
- Not all the gold in India's wealthy arms
- Shall buy the meanest soldier in my train.
- Zenocrate, lovelier than the love of Jove,
- Brighter than is the silver Rhodope,
- Fairer than 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 hundred Tartars shall attend on thee,
- Mounted on steeds swifter than Pegasus;
- Thy garments shall be made of Median silk,
- Enchased with precious jewels of mine own,
- More rich and valurous than Zenocrate's.
- With milk-white harts upon an ivory sled,
- Thou shalt be drawn amidst the frozen pools,
- And scale the icy mountains' lofty tops,
- Which with thy beauty will be soon resolved
- My martial prizes with five hundred men,
- Won on the fifty-headed Volga's waves,
- Shall we all offer to Zenocrate,—
- And then myself to fair Zenocrate.
- Techelles, women must be flatteréd:
- But this is she with whom I am in love.
- Enter a Soldier.
- How now—what's the matter?
- A thousand Persian horsemen are at hand,
- Sent from the king to overcome us all.
- How now, my lords of Egypt, and Zenocrate!
- How!—must your jewels be restored again,
- And I, that triumphed so, be overcome?
- How say you, lordings,—is not this your hope?
- We hope yourself will willingly restore them.
- Such hope, such fortune, have the thousand horse.
- Soft ye, my lords, and sweet Zenocrate!
- You must be forcèd from me ere you go.
- A thousand horsemen!—We five hundred foot!—
- An odds too great for us to stand against.
- But are they rich?—and is their armour good?
- Their plumèd helms are wrought with beaten gold,
- Their swords enamelled, and about their necks
- Hangs massy chains of gold, down to the waist,
- In every part exceeding brave and rich.
- Then shall we fight courageously with them?
- Or look you I should play the orator?
- No: cowards and faint-hearted runaways
- Look for orations when the foe is near:
- Our swords shall play the orator for us.
- Come! let us meet them at the mountain top,
- And with a sudden and a hot alarum,
- Drive all their horses headlong down the hill.
- Stay, Techelles! ask a parle first.
- The Soldiers enter.
- Open the mails, yet guard the treasure sure;
- Lay out our golden wedges to the view,
- That their reflections may amaze the Persians;
- And look we friendly on them when they come;
- But if they offer word or violence,
- We'll fight five hundred men at arms to one,
- Before we part with our possession.
- And 'gainst the general we will lift our swords,
- And either lanch his greedy thirsting throat,
- Or take him prisoner, and his chain shall serve.
- For manacles, till he be ransomed home.
- I hear them come; shall we encounter them?
- Keep all your standings and not stir a foot,
- Myself will bide the danger of the brunt.
- EnterTheridamasand others.
- Where is this Scythian Tamburlaine?
- Whom seek'st thou, Persian?—I am Tamburlaine.
- A Scythian shepherd so embellishéd
- With nature's pride and richest furniture!
- 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 vauts
- To pull the triple-headed dog from hell.
- Noble and mild this Persian seems to be,
- If outward habit judge the inward man.
- His deep affections make him passionate.
- With what a majesty he rears his looks!
- In thee, thou valiant man of Persia,
- I see the folly of thy emperor.
- Art thou but captain of a thousand horse,
- That by chàracters graven in thy brows,
- And by thy martial face and stout aspéct,
- Deserv'st to have the leading of a host!
- Forsake thy king, and do but join with me,
- And we will triumph over all the world;
- I hold the fates bound fast in iron chains,
- And with my hand turn fortune's wheel about:
- And sooner shall the sun fall from his sphere,
- Than Tamburlaine be slain or overcome.
- Draw forth thy sword, thou mighty man at arms,
- Intending but to raze my charméd skin,
- And Jove himself will stretch his hand from Heaven
- To ward the blow and shield me safe from harm.
- See how he rains down heaps of gold in showers,
- As if he meant to give my soldiers pay!
- And as a sure and grounded argument,
- That I shall be the monarch of the East,
- He sends this soldan's daughter rich and brave,
- To be my queen and portly emperess.
- If thou wilt stay with me, renowméd man,
- And lead thy thousand horse with my condúct,
- Besides thy share of this Egyptian prize,
- Those thousand horse shall sweat with martial spoil
- Of conquered kingdoms and of cities sacked;
- Both we will walk upon the lofty cliffs,
- And Christian merchants that with Russian stems
- Plough up huge furrows in the Caspian sea,
- Shall vail to us, as lords of all the lake.
- Both we will reign as consuls of the earth,
- And mighty kings shall be our senators.
- Jove sometimes masked in a shepherd's weed,
- And by those steps that he hath scaled the heavens
- May we become immortal like the gods.
- Join with me now in this my mean estate,
- (I call it mean because being yet obscure,
- The nations far removed admire me not.)
- And when my name and hononr shall be spread
- As far as Boreas claps his brazen wings,
- Or fair Böötes sends his cheerful light,
- Then shall thou be competitor with me,
- And sit with Tamburlaine in all his majesty.
- Not Hermes, prolocutor to the gods,
- Could use persuasions more pathetical.
- Nor are Apollo's oracles more true,
- Than thou shalt find rny vaunts substantial.
- We are his friends, and if the Persian king
- Should offer present dukedoms to our state,
- We think it loss to make exchange for that
- We are assured of by our friend's success.
- And kingdoms at the least we all expect,
- Besides the honour in assuréd conquests,
- When kings shall crouch unto our conquering swords
- And hosts of soldiers stand amazed at us;
- When with their fearful tongues they shall confess,
- These are the men that all the world admires.
- What strong enchantmenls tice my yielding soul!
- These are resolvéd, noble Scythians:
- But shall I prove a traitor to my king?
- No, but the trusty friend of Tamburlaine.
- Won with thy words, and conquered with thy looks,
- I yield myself, my men, and horse to thee,
- To be partaker of thy good or ill,
- As long as life maintains Theridamas.
- Theridamas, my friend, take here my hand,
- Which is as much as if I swore by Heaven,
- And call'd the gods to witness of my vow.
- Thus shall my heart be still combined with thine
- Until our bodies turn to elements,
- And both our souls aspire celestial thrones.
- Techelles and Casane, welcome him!
- Welcome, renowmèd Persian, to us all!
- Long may Theridamas remain with us!
- These are my friends, in whom I rejoice
- Than doth the king of Persia in his crown,
- And by the love of Pylades and Orestes,
- Whose statues we adore in Scythia,
- Thyself and them shall never part from me
- Before I crown you kings in Asia.
- Make much of them, gentle Theridamas,
- And they will never leave thee till the death.
- Nor thee nor them, thrice noble Tarnburlaine,
- Shall want my heart to be with gladness pierced,
- To do you honour and security.
- A thousand thanks, worthy Therulamas.
- And now fair madam, and my noble lords,
- If you will willingly remain with me
- You shall have honours as your merits be;
- Or else you shall be forced with slavery.
- We yield unto thee, happy Tamburlaine.
- For you then, madam, I am out of doubt.
- Zeno, I must be pleased perforce. Wretched Zeno-crate!
- But what are kings when regiment is gone
- But perfect shadows in a sunshine day.”
- “Thou shalt have garments wrought of Median silk
- Enchas'd with precious jewels brought from far.”
- “Italian merchants that with Russian stems
- Plough up huge furrows in the Tyrrhene main.”
- Merchants = merchantmen stems = prows.
- “What strong enchantments tice my yielding soul
- To these resolved noble Scythians?”
- “Minis amor juvenum, quamvis abiere tot anni,
- In Scythia magnum none quoque nomen habet.”
- —Ex Ponto, iii. 2, 95-96.