The First Part of Tamburlaine the Great, by Christopher Marlowe

To The Gentlemen-Readers1 and Others that take pleasure in reading Histories.2

Gentlemen and courteous readers whosoever: I have here published in print, for your sakes, the two tragical discourses of the Scythian shepherd Tamburlaine, that became so great a conqueror and so mighty a monarch. My hope is, that they will be now no less acceptable unto you to read after your serious affairs and studies than they have been lately delightful for many of you to see when the same were shewed in London upon stages. I have purposely omitted and left out some fond3 and frivolous gestures, digressing, and, in my poor opinion, far unmeet for the matter, which I thought might seem more tedious unto the wise than any way else to be regarded, though haply they have been of some vain-conceited fondlings greatly gaped at, what time they were shewed upon the stage in their graced deformities: nevertheless now to be mixtured in print with such matter of worth, it would prove a great disgrace to so honourable and stately a history. Great folly were it in me to commend unto your wisdoms either the eloquence of the author that writ them or the worthiness of the matter itself. I therefore leave unto your learned censures4 both the one and the other, and myself the poor printer of them unto your most courteous and favourable protection; which if you vouchsafe to accept, you shall evermore bind me to employ what travail and service I can to the advancing and pleasuring of your excellent degree.

Yours, most humble at commandment,
R[ichard] J[ones], printer.

1 To the Gentlemen-readers, &c.] From the 8vo of 1592: in the 4tos this address is worded here and there differently. I have not thought it necessary to mark the varioe lectiones of the worthy printer’s composition.

2 histories] i.e. dramas so called — plays founded on history.

3 fond] i.e. foolish. — Concerning the omissions here alluded to, some remarks will be found in the ACCOUNT OF MARLOWE AND HIS WRITINGS.

[The “Account of Marlowe and His Writings,” is the introduction to this book of ‘The Works of Christopher Marlowe.’ That is, the book from which this play has been transcribed. The following is from pages xvi and xvii of that introduction:

“This tragedy, which was entered in the Stationers’ Books, 14th August, 1590,{a} and printed during the same year, has not come down to us in its original fulness; and probably we have no cause to lament the curtailments which it suffered from the publisher of the first edition. “I have purposely,” he says, “omitted and left out some fond and frivolous gestures, digressing, and, in my poor opinion, far unmeet for the matter, which I thought might seem more tedious unto the wise than any way else to be regarded, though haply they have been of some vain-conceited fondlings greatly gaped at, what time they were shewed upon the stage in their graced deformities: nevertheless now to be mixtured in print with such matter of worth, it would prove a great disgrace to so honourable and stately a history.”{b} By the words, “fond and frivolous gestures,” we are to understand those of the “clown;” who very frequently figured, with more or less prominence, even in the most serious dramas of the time. The introduction of such buffooneries into tragedy{c} is censured by Hall towards the conclusion of a passage which, as it mentions “the Turkish Tamberlaine,” would seem to be partly levelled at Marlowe:{d}

“One higher-pitch’d doth set his soaring thought
On crowned kings that Fortune hath low brought,
Or some vpreared high-aspiring swaine,
As it might be THE TURKISH TAMBERLAINE.
Then weeneth he his base drink-drowned spright
Rapt to the three-fold loft of heauen hight,
When he conceiues vpon his fained stage
The stalking steps of his greate personage,
Graced with huf-cap termes and thundring threats,
That his poore hearers’ hayre quite vpright sets.

* * * * * * * * *

NOW, LEAST SUCH FRIGHTFULL SHOWES OF FORTUNE’S FALL
AND BLOUDY TYRANTS’ RAGE SHOULD CHANCE APALL
THE DEAD-STROKE AUDIENCE, MIDST THE SILENT ROUT
COMES LEAPING IN A SELFE-MISFORMED LOUT,
AND LAUGHES, AND GRINS, AND FRAMES HIS MIMIK FACE,
AND IUSTLES STRAIGHT INTO THE PRINCE’S PLACE:
THEN DOTH THE THEATRE ECCHO ALL ALOUD
WITH GLADSOME NOYSE OF THAT APPLAUDING CROWD:
A GOODLY HOCH-POCH, WHEN VILE RUSSETTINGS
ARE MATCH[‘D] WITH MONARCHS AND WITH MIGHTIE KINGS!”{e}

But Hall’s taste was more refined and classical than that of his age; and the success of TAMBURLAINE, in which the celebrated Alleyn represented the hero,{f} was adequate to the most sanguine expectations which its author could have formed.

{a} “A ballad entituled the storye of Tamburlayne the greate,” &c. (founded, I suppose, on Marlowe’s play) was entered in the Stationers’ Books, 5th Nov. 1594.

{b} P. 4 of the present volume.

{c} In Italy, at the commencement of the 18th century (and probably much later), it was not unusual to introduce “the Doctor,” “Harlequin,” “Pantalone,” and “Coviello,” into deep tragedies. “I have seen,” says Addison, “a translation of THE CID acted at Bolonia, which would never have taken, had they not found a place in it for these buffoons.” REMARKS ON SEVERAL PARTS OF ITALY, &C. IN THE YEARS 1701, 1702, 1703, p. 68, ed. 1745.

{d} Perhaps I ought to add, that Marlowe was dead when (in 1597) the satire, from which these lines are quoted, was first given to the press.

{e} Hall’s VIRGID. Lib. I. Sat. iii., ed. 1602.

{f} See Heywood’s Prol. to our author’s JEW OF MALTA, p. 142 of the present volume. “

4 censures] i.e. judgments, opinions.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/marlowe/christopher/tambur1/preface.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:10