'Is this your crown?’: Conquest and Coronation in Tamburlaine 2.4

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2005


Kings do not fare well in Christopher Marlowe’s conquering hero play Tamburlaine. Over the course of two parts and in the space of ten acts, they are defeated, caged, bridled, harnessed, and, in most cases, die violent deaths. To be sure, few characters but Tamburlaine have cause to daydream and aspire to such sentiments as “Is it not brave to be a king?” (II.5.51).1 In fact, the opening act of Part One clearly suggests otherwise: monarchs Mycetes and Cosroe make poor decisions as rulers and end up at the mercy of the mighty Scythian warrior. While less memorable than the more atrocious abuses visited on his later adversaries, the conqueror’s forty-three line exchange with the dim-witted Mycetes in Act II Scene 4 remains crucial to the audience’s fuller appreciation and deeper understanding of Marlowe’s structure in Part One of the play. Many scholars have commented on this structure, Hubert Wurmbach the most succinct among them (writing in German): “Tamburlaine bedroht einen Opponenten; dieser schickt ihm einen Boten entgegen; Tamburlaine akzeptiert dessen Botschaft nicht; es kommt zum Kamp zwischen Tamburlaine und dem Opponenten: Tamburlaine siegt”.2 In addition to establishing the pattern of Tamburlaine’s conquests and assigning symbolic value to the play’s most visible prop, this scene also sets a firm foundation for Part Two, in which it is recalled by Tamburlaine himself. Often dismissed as a rather curious scene of comic relief, the first exchange between Tamburlaine and a king merits closer examination. Indeed, the scene is funny.


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