Christopher Marlowe
Tamburlaine Part 2 - Act III

2 Tamburlaine: Act III Scene i

The climactic event of Zenocrate's death disposed of, the play begins to wander, as though Marlowe had lost interest in it. This Scene could have well have been left out, and probably was in some productions. We do see a bit of humor. After the ridiculous opening speech of Orcanes, replete with titles that must have been greeted with laughter, Callapine responds. "Thrice worthy kings, of Natolia and the rest ..." So much for titles.

There is little else of note except Callapine's reference to a Fortune who, it turns out, must have been preoccupied with other things,

...We shall not need to nourish any doubt,
But that proud Fortune, who hath follow'd long
The martial sword of mighty Tamburlaine,
Will now retain her old inconstancy,
And raise our honours to as high a pitch
In this our strong and fortunate encounter ...

2 Tamburlaine: Act III Scene ii

Tamburlaine continues his angry mourning for Zenocrate, reasserting that someone will pay:

Sorrow no more, my sweet Casane, now:
Boys, leave to mourn; this town shall ever mourn,
Being burnt to cinders for your mother's death.

He is ready to move on and launches into a long speech describing how to construct stationary defensive structures. Something else to leave out. Marlowe re-engages in the person of Tamburlaine's son, Calyphas, who says, "My lord, but this is dangerous to be done;/ We may be slain or wounded ere we learn." This boy seems to have no idea of how to deal with his father and, as any sensible person would anticipate, evokes Tamburlaine's anger. With Zenocrate dead, there is nothing to temper the warrior's aggressiveness. Calyphas has done something for the good - of the play. Marlowe uses the boy's timidity to produce an event that will reappear in Doctor Faustus, self-wounding and use of that blood for a lesson. One other passage is of note. Tamburlaine still wants to find and kill "that accursed traitor, Almeda." Usumcasane reinforces that, saying,

I long to pierce his bowels with my sword,
That hath betray'd my gracious sovereign,--
That curs'd and damned traitor Almeda.

We see here a judgment being pronounced against Almeda, just as one from heaven was carried out against Sigismund. Theridamas, however, continues to be free of this threat.

2 Tamburlaine: Act III Scene iii and iv

There now are two Scenes that give some relief from the ponderous pronouncement of emperors and form a poignant play within a play. We confront, again, honor. Techelles and Theridamas are on their own, threatening a town, the situation being like Tamburlaine's beseiging of Damascus, and indeed will unroll like the tragedy associated with its destruction. The result is clear from the start; the town will fall. The Captain of the town refuses to yield, but we are not given any reason for his firm decision. We move directly to his receiving a mortal wound and his prompt death. Marlowe, revisiting grief, has Olympia, the Captain's widow, say,

Death, whither art thou gone, that both we live?
Come back again, sweet Death, and strike us both!
One minute and our days, and one sepulchre
Contain our bodies!  Death, why com'st thou not?
Well, this must be the messenger for thee:
     [Drawing a dagger.]
Now, ugly Death, stretch out thy sable wings,
And carry both our souls where his remains.--

Shunning a life lived in slavery for herself and her son, she kills him and is about to kill herself when Theridamas and Techelles find her. These two warriors are struck by her beauty and give her no choice except to accompany them.

There is a similar episode in Shakepeare's "Richard III" (1592/3) where Gloucester (who when king would be Richard III), having killed the father and husband of Lady Anne, convinces her (rather easily) that he loves her and that she should be his wife. The fates of Olympia and Lady Anne are soon to be visited by death, both through the actions of the man who has pledged his love. Olympia has been given no choice; we will see her further actions in Act IV Scene iii, where we will discuss this further.

2 Tamburlaine: Act III Scene v

There is a lot of posturing and darting invectives, a Scene replete with insults, but not much else. There are some details worth looking at. The overall tenor is similar to the flytings amongst the women in Part 1. Do you think this was a joke of Marlowe's or just laziness on his part? Tamburlaine is still angry about Callapine's escape. Initially, he even avoids using Almeda's name, referring to him as "That villain there, that slave, that Turkish dog." A few lines later Tamburlaine launches on an extended excoriation of Almeda,

Villain, traitor, damned fugitive,
I'll make thee wish the earth had swallow'd thee!
See'st thou not death within my wrathful looks?
Go, villain, cast thee headlong from a rock,
Or rip thy bowels, and rent out thy heart,
T' appease my wrath; or else I'll torture thee,
Searing thy hateful flesh with burning irons
And drops of scalding lead, while all thy joints
Be rack'd and beat asunder with the wheel;
For, if thou liv'st, not any element
Shall shroud thee from the wrath of Tamburlaine.

This is good theater and if the audience was still paying attention, probably got the hisses started. Marlowe would revisit that imagery in other plays, Doctor FaustusThe Jew of Malta and Edward II. Not taking himself too seriously, the playwright slips in some comedy. Almeda is offered a crown by Callapine and urged to take it by Orcanes. The poor ex-jailer turns to Tamburlaine:

ALMEDA: Good my lord, let me take it.
CALLAPINE: Dost thou ask him leave? here; take it.
TAMBURLAINE: Go to, sirrah! take your crown, and make up the half dozen.
So, sirrah, now you are a king, you must give arms.
ORCANES: So he shall, and wear thy head in his scutcheon.
TAMBURLAINE: No; let him hang a bunch of keys on his standard, to put him in
remembrance he was a jailor, that, when I take him, I may knock out his
brains with them, and lock you in the stable, when you shall come
sweating from my chariot.

Something interesting starts happening at line 152, "Ay, my lord, he was Callapine's keeper." This, it appears to me, is trochaic pentameter, that is, the feet are stressed oppositely to iambs. The line goes strong/weak strong/weak, etc., not weak/strong. That is followed by prose and the iambic pentameter of the rest of the play does not return until about line 161. There will be more prose to come.


Updated 2014-03-20