The First Part of Tamburlaine the Great, by Christopher Marlowe

Act 1.

Scene 1.

[Enter Mycetes, Cosroe, Meander, Theridamas, Ortygius,
Ceneus, Menaphon, with others.]

Mycetes. Brother Cosroe, I find myself agriev’d;
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.

Cosroe. Unhappy Persia — that in former age
Hast been the seat of mighty conquerors,
That, in their prowess and their policies,
Have triumph’d over Afric,5 and the bounds
Of Europe where the sun dares scarce appear
For freezing meteors and congealed cold —
Now to be rul’d and govern’d by a man
At whose birth-day Cynthia with Saturn join’d,
And Jove, the Sun, and Mercury denied
To shed their6 influence in his fickle brain!
Now Turks and Tartars shake their swords at thee,
Meaning to mangle all thy provinces.

Mycetes. Brother, I see your meaning well enough,
And through7 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?

Meander. Not for so small a fault, my sovereign lord.

Mycetes. 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 conceived 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.

Meander. 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 incivil8 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,
Charg’d with a thousand horse, to apprehend
And bring him captive to your highness’ throne.

Mycetes. 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 incontinent9
To apprehend that paltry Scythian.
How like you this, my honourable lords?
Is it not a kingly resolution?

Cosroe. It cannot choose, because it comes from you.

Mycetes. Then hear thy charge, valiant Theridamas,
The chiefest10 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 shalt 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 Paris with the Grecian dame:
Return with speed; time passeth swift away;
Our life is frail, and we may die to-day.

Theridamas. Before the moon renew her borrow’d light,
Doubt not, my lord and gracious sovereign,
But Tamburlaine and that Tartarian rout11
Shall either perish by our warlike hands,
Or plead for mercy at your highness’ feet.

Mycetes. 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 even to their hoofs below,
Besmear’d with blood that makes a dainty show.

Theridamas. Then now, my lord, I humbly take my leave.

Mycetes. Theridamas, farewell ten thousand times.

[Exit Theridamas.]

Ah, Menaphon, why stay’st thou thus behind,
When other men press12 forward for renown?
Go, Menaphon, go into Scythia,
And foot by foot follow Theridamas.

Cosroe. Nay, pray you,13 let him stay; a greater [task]
Fits Menaphon than warring with a thief:
Create him pro-rex of all14 Africa,
That he may win the Babylonians’ hearts,
Which will revolt from Persian government,
Unless they have a wiser king than you.

Mycetes. Unless they have a wiser king than you!
These are his words; Meander, set them down.

Cosroe. And add this to them — that all Asia
Lament to see the folly of their king.

Mycetes. Well, here I swear by this my royal seat —

Cosroe. You may do well to kiss it, then.

Mycetes. Emboss’d with silk as best beseems my state,
To be reveng’d for these contemptuous words!
O, 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 abus’d, Meander.

[Exeunt all except Cosroe and Menaphon.]

Menaphon. How now, my lord! what, mated15 and amaz’d
To hear the king thus threaten like himself!

Cosroe. Ah, Menaphon, I pass not16 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 vexed soul,
To see our neighbours, that were wont to quake
And tremble at the Persian monarch’s name,
Now sit and laugh our regiment17 to scorn;
And that which might resolve18 me into tears,
Men from the farthest equinoctial line
Have swarm’d in troops into the Eastern India,
Lading their ships19 with gold and precious stones,
And made their spoils from all our provinces.

Menaphon. This should entreat your highness to rejoice,
Since Fortune gives you opportunity
To gain the title of a conqueror
By curing of this maimed empery.
Afric and Europe bordering on your land,
And continent to your dominions,
How easily may you, with a mighty host,
Pass20 into Graecia, as did Cyrus once,
And cause them to withdraw their forces home,
Lest you21 subdue the pride of Christendom!

[Trumpet within.]

Cosroe. But, Menaphon, what means this trumpet’s sound?

Menaphon. Behold, my lord, Ortygius and the rest
Bringing the crown to make you emperor!

[Re-enter Ortygius and Ceneus,22 with others, bearing a crown.]

Ortygius. Magnificent and mighty prince Cosroe,
We, in the name of other Persian states23
And commons of this mighty monarchy,
Present thee with th’ imperial diadem.

Ceneus. The warlike soldiers and the gentlemen,
That heretofore have fill’d 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 their24 king:
Therefore, to stay 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.

Cosroe. Well, since I see the state of Persia droop
And languish in my brother’s government,
I willingly receive th’ imperial crown,
And vow to wear it for my country’s good,
In spite of them shall malice my estate.

Ortygius. And, in assurance of desir’d success,
We here do crown thee monarch of the East;
Emperor of Asia and Persia;25
Great lord of Media and Armenia;
Duke of Africa and Albania,
Mesopotamia and of Parthia,
East India and the late-discover’d isles;
Chief lord of all the wide vast Euxine Sea,
And of the ever-raging26 Caspian Lake.

All.27 Long live Cosroe, mighty emperor!

Cosroe. And Jove may28 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 desires 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.

Ortygius. We knew,29 my lord, before we brought the crown,
Intending your investion so near
The residence of your despised brother,
The lords30 would not be too exasperate
To injury31 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.

Cosroe. I know it well, my lord, and thank you all.

Ortygius. Sound up the trumpets, then.

[Trumpets sounded.]

All.32 God save the king!


5 Afric] So the 8vo. — The 4to “Affrica.”

6 their] Old eds. “his.”

7 through] So the 4to. — The 8vo “thorough.”

8 incivil] i.e. barbarous. — So the 8vo. — The 4to “vnciuill.”

9 incontinent] i.e. forthwith, immediately.

10 chiefest] So the 8vo. — The 4to “chiefe.”

11 rout] i.e. crew.

12 press] So the 8vo. — The 4to “prease.”

13 you] So the 8vo. — 0mitted in the 4to.

14 all] So the 4to. — 0mitted in the 8vo.

15 mated] i.e. confounded.

16 pass not] i.e. care not.

17 regiment] i.e. rule, government.

18 resolve] i.e. dissolve. — So the 8vo. — The 4to “dissolue.”

19 ships] So the 4to. — The 8vo “shippe.”

20 Pass] So the 8vo. — The 4to “Hast.”

21 you] So the 8vo. — The 4to “they.”

22 Ceneus] Here both the old eds. “Conerus.”

23 states] i.e. noblemen, persons of rank.

24 their] So the 8vo. — The 4to “the.”

25 and Persia] So the 8vo. — The 4to “and OF Persia.”

26 ever-raging] So the 8vo. — The 4to “RIUER raging.”

27 ALL] So the 4to. — Omitted in the 8vo.

28 And Jove may, &c.] i.e. And may Jove, &c. This collocation of words is sometimes found in later writers: so in the Prologue to Fletcher’s WOMAN’S PRIZE — “WHICH this may PROVE!”

29 knew] So the 8vo. — The 4to “knowe.”

30 lords] So the 4to. — The 8vo “Lord.”

31 injury] This verb frequently occurs in our early writers. “Then haue you INIURIED manie.” Lyly’s ALEXANDER AND CAMPASPE, sig. D 4, ed. 1591. It would seem to have fallen into disuse soon after the commencement of the 17th century: in Heywood’s WOMAN KILLED WITH KINDNESS, 1607, we find,

“You INJURY that good man, and wrong me too.”
Sig. F 2.

but in ed. 1617 “injury” is altered to “iniure.”

32 ALL] So the 4to. — 0mitted in the 8vo.

Scene 2.

[Enter Tamburlaine leading Zenocrate, Techelles, Usumcasane, Agydas, Magnetes, Lords, and Soldiers loaden with treasure.]

Tamburlaine. Come, lady, let not this appal your thoughts;
The jewels and the treasure we have ta’en
Shall be reserv’d, and you in better state
Than if you were arriv’d in Syria,
Even in the circle of your father’s arms,
The mighty Soldan of Aegyptia.

Zenocrate. Ah, shepherd, pity my distressed 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, travelling33 with these Median lords
To Memphis, from my uncle’s country of Media,
Where, all my youth, I have been governed,
Have pass’d the army of the mighty Turk,
Bearing his privy-signet and his hand
To safe-conduct us thorough34 Africa.

Magnetes. And, since we have arriv’d in Scythia,
Besides rich presents from the puissant Cham,
We have his highness’ letters to command
Aid and assistance, if we stand in need.

Tamburlaine. 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 betroth’d?

Zenocrate. I am, my lord — for so you do import.

Tamburlaine. 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 Tamburlaine. —
And, madam, whatsoever you esteem
Of this success, and loss unvalued,35
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.

Techelles. 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.

Usumcasane. And making thee and me, Techelles, kings,
That even to death will follow Tamburlaine.

Tamburlaine. Nobly resolv’d, sweet friends and followers!
These lords perhaps do scorn our estimates,
And think we prattle with distemper’d spirits:
But, since they measure our deserts so mean,
That in conceit36 bear empires on our spears,
Affecting thoughts coequal with the clouds,
They shall be kept our forced followers
Till with their eyes they view us emperors.

Zenocrate. 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 hop’st to be eternized
By living Asia’s mighty emperor.

Agydas. I hope our lady’s 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 betrothed lord, Alcidamus,
Expects the arrival of her highness’ person.

Magnetes. And wheresoever we repose ourselves,
We will report but well of Tamburlaine.

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,37
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 promis’d at my birth.
A hundred Tartars shall attend on thee,
Mounted on steeds swifter than Pegasus;
Thy garments shall be made of Median silk,
Enchas’d with precious jewels of mine own,
More rich and valurous38 than Zenocrate’s;
With milk-white harts upon an ivory sled
Thou shalt be drawn amidst the frozen pools,39
And scale the icy mountains’ lofty tops,
Which with thy beauty will be soon resolv’d:40
My martial prizes, with five hundred men,
Won on the fifty-headed Volga’s waves,
Shall we all offer41 to Zenocrate,
And then myself to fair Zenocrate.

Techelles. What now! in love?

Tamburlaine. Techelles, women must be flattered:
But this is she with whom I am in42 love.

[Enter a Soldier.]

Soldier. News, news!

Tamburlaine. How now! what’s the matter?

Soldier. A thousand Persian horsemen are at hand,
Sent from the king to overcome us all.

Tamburlaine. How now, my lords of Egypt, and Zenocrate!
Now must your jewels be restor’d again,
And I, that triumph’d43 so, be overcome?
How say you, lordings? is not this your hope?

Agydas. We hope yourself will willingly restore them.

Tamburlaine. Such hope, such fortune, have the thousand horse.
Soft ye, my lords, and sweet Zenocrate!
You must be forced 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!

Soldier. Their plumed helms are wrought with beaten gold,
Their swords enamell’d, and about their necks
Hang massy chains of gold down to the waist;
In every part exceeding brave44 and rich.

Tamburlaine. Then shall we fight courageously with them?
Or look you I should play the orator?

Techelles. No; cowards and faint-hearted runaways
Look for orations when the foe is near:
Our swords shall play the orators for us.

Usumcasane. Come, let us meet them at the mountain-top,45
And with a sudden and an hot alarum
Drive all their horses headlong down the hill.

Techelles. Come, let us march.

Tamburlaine. Stay, Techelles; ask a parle first.

[The Soldiers enter.]

Open the mails,46 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 lance47 his greedy thirsting throat,
Or take him prisoner, and his chain shall serve
For manacles till he be ransom’d home.

Techelles. I hear them come: shall we encounter them?

Tamburlaine. Keep all your standings, and not stir a foot:
Myself will bide the danger of the brunt.

[Enter Theridamas with others.]

Theridamas. Where is this48 Scythian Tamburlaine?

Tamburlaine. Whom seek’st thou, Persian? I am Tamburlaine.

Theridamas. Tamburlaine!
A Scythian shepherd so embellished
With nature’s pride and richest furniture!
His looks do menace heaven and dare the gods;
His fiery eyes are fix’d upon the earth,
As if he now devis’d some stratagem,
Or meant to pierce Avernus’ darksome vaults49
To pull the triple-headed dog from hell.

Tamburlaine. Noble and mild this Persian seems to be,
If outward habit judge the inward man.

Techelles. His deep affections make him passionate.

Tamburlaine. With what a majesty he rears his looks! —
In thee, thou valiant man of Persia,
I see the folly of thy50 emperor.
Art thou but captain of a thousand horse,
That by characters graven in thy brows,
And by thy martial face and stout aspect,
Deserv’st to have the leading of an 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 charmed 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,51
To be my queen and portly emperess.
If thou wilt stay with me, renowmed52 man,
And lead thy thousand horse with my conduct,
Besides thy share of this Egyptian prize,
Those thousand horse shall sweat with martial spoil
Of conquer’d kingdoms and of cities sack’d:
Both we will walk upon the lofty cliffs;53
And Christian merchants,54 that with Russian stems55
Plough up huge furrows in the Caspian Sea,
Shall vail56 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 sometime masked in a shepherd’s weed;
And by those steps that he hath scal’d 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-remov’d admire me not,)
And when my name and honour shall be spread
As far as Boreas claps his brazen wings,
Or fair Bootes57 sends his cheerful light,
Then shalt thou be competitor58 with me,
And sit with Tamburlaine in all his majesty.

Theridamas. Not Hermes, prolocutor to the gods,
Could use persuasions more pathetical.

Tamburlaine. Nor are Apollo’s oracles more true
Than thou shalt find my vaunts substantial.

Techelles. 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 assur’d of by our friend’s success.

Usumcasane. And kingdoms at the least we all expect,
Besides the honour in assured conquests,
Where kings shall crouch unto our conquering swords,
And hosts of soldiers stand amaz’d at us,
When with their fearful tongues they shall confess,
These are the men that all the world admires.

Theridamas. What strong enchantments tice my yielding soul
To these59 resolved, noble Scythians!
But shall I prove a traitor to my king?

Tamburlaine. No; but the trusty friend of Tamburlaine.

Theridamas. Won with thy words, and conquer’d 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.

Tamburlaine. 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 combin’d with thine
Until our bodies turn to elements,
And both our souls aspire celestial thrones. —
Techelles and Casane, welcome him.

Techelles. Welcome, renowmed60 Persian, to us all!

Usumcasane. Long may Theridamas remain with us!

Tamburlaine. These are my friends, in whom I more rejoice
Than doth the king of Persia in his crown;
And, by the love of Pylades and Orestes,
Whose statues61 we adore in Scythia,
Thyself and them shall never part from me
Before I crown you kings62 in Asia.
Make much of them, gentle Theridamas,
And they will never leave thee till the death.

Theridamas. Nor thee nor them,63 thrice-noble Tamburlaine,
Shall want my heart to be with gladness pierc’d,
To do you honour and security.

Tamburlaine. A thousand thanks, worthy Theridamas. —
And now, fair madam, and my noble lords,
If you will64 willingly remain with me,
You shall have honours as your merits be;
Or else you shall be forc’d with slavery.

Agydas. We yield unto thee, happy Tamburlaine.

Tamburlaine. For you, then, madam, I am out of doubt.

Zenocrate. I must be pleas’d perforce — wretched Zenocrate!


33 Who, travelling, &c.] The halting metre shews that there is some corruption in this and the next line.

34 thorough] So the 8vo. — The 4to “through.”

35 unvalued] i.e. not to be valued, or estimated.

36 conceit] i.e. fancy, imagination.

37 Rhodope] Old eds. “Rhodolfe.”

38 valurous] i.e. valuable.

39 pools] So the 8vo. — The 4to “Poles.”

40 resolv’d] i.e. dissolved. — So the 8vo. — The 4to “desolu’d.”

41 Shall we all offer] The 8vo “Shall we offer” (the word “all” having dropt out). — The 4to “WE ALL SHALL offer.{”}

42 in] The 8vo “it.”— Omitted in the 4to.

43 triumph’d] So the 8vo. — The 4to “tryumph.”

44 brave] i.e. splendidly clad.

45 top] So the 4to. — The 8vo “foot.”

46 mails] i.e. bags, budgets.

47 lance] So the 4to. — Here the 8vo has “lanch;” but more than once in the SEC. PART of the play it has “lance.”

48 this] So the 8vo. — The 4to “the.”— Qy. “Where is this Scythian SHEPHERD Tamburlaine”? Compare the next words of Theridamas.

49 vaults] Here the 8vo has “vauts,”—“which,” says one of the modern editors, “was common in Marlowe’s time:” and so it was; but in the SEC. PART of this play, act ii. sc. 4, the same 8vo gives —

“As we descend into the infernal VAULTS.”

50 thy] So the 8vo. — The 4to “the.”

51 brave] See note † in preceding column.{i.e. note 44.}

52 renowmed] i.e. renowned. — So the 8vo. — The 4to “renowned.” — The form “RENOWMED” (Fr. renomme) occurs repeatedly afterwards in this play, according to the 8vo. It is occasionally found in writers posterior to Marlowe’s time. e.g.

“Of Constantines great towne RENOUM’D in vaine.”
Verses to King James, prefixed to Lord Stirling’s

53 cliffs] So the 8vo. — The 4to “cliftes.”

54 merchants] i.e. merchant-men, ships of trade.

55 stems] i.e. prows.

56 vail] i.e. lower their flags.

57 Bootes] The 8vo “Botees.”— The 4to “Boetes.”

58 competitor] i.e. associate, partner (a sense in which the word is used by Shakespeare).

59 To these] Old eds. “ARE these.”

60 renowmed] See note ||, p. 11.{i.e. note 52.}— So the 8vo. — The 4to “renowned.”

61 statues] So the 4to. —“The first edition reads ‘statutes,’ but, as the Scythians worshipped Pylades and Orestes in temples, we have adopted the reading of the quarto as being most probably the correct one.” Ed. 1826.

62 kings] So the 8vo. — The 4to “king.”

63 Nor thee nor them] The modern editors silently print “Nor THEY nor THEIRS.”

64 will] So the 8vo. — Omitted in the 4to.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:58