Review: Tamburlaine

Posted 8 April, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

By: Christopher Marlowe
Format/Source: Audiobook via LibriVox

From one of England’s greatest playwrights, a remarkably inventive and poetically expressive work that set the form for later Elizabethan dramas. The 2-part romantic tragedy focuses on Tamburlaine — a Mongol warrior whose relentless rise to greatness and power, together with his enormous greed and vanity, culminates in his eventual downfall.

I initially shied away from jumping into the next Marlowe play after listening to The Jew of Malta (review) because this play was divided into two parts; wasn’t entirely feeling up to listening to both at the time. But seeing as I’m in the middle of a Shakespeare kick and in the need of listening to a play, I finally decided to listen to this play 🙂

Hmm, I initially planned on splitting my review under two headings, one for each book, but realised I could just talk about it together 😛 Tamburlaine was an interesting play, very much a war tale with various kingdoms fighting back against the rise of Tamburlaine in the east. At first much of what these characters–and the audience–hears about Tamburlaine is by hearsay, but over the course of the plays, the audience sees how Tamburlaine is, how ruthless and merciless he is in his quest for power and authority over the entire Asiatic region. If it wasn’t for his wife Zenocrate, I think he would’ve been a lot worse (which comes to the fore in the second half of the play).

But I mean, he is bad even with Zenocrate trying to appease to his better nature; the way he treats his enemies is pretty yikes O_O and even his treatment towards his sons is pretty =S The latter speaks a lot of his character, his cruelty, what he deems is manly and fitting of a king. Heck, he seems to embody the motto of living large; his goal in life is nothing short of ruling the world. “Aim big” seems to be stamped across his forehead, and nothing appears to be able to stop him in his tracks; the camp opposing Tamburlaine has a lot of infighting, especially early on, as to who should rule and lead the campaign against Tamburlaine that in the end they fall apart against his onslaught.

Tamburlaine is quite a douchebag and a nasty piece of work, and yet he does love his wife, which provides a bit more nuance and humanity to his character because otherwise he seems almost one-dimensional. Or maybe I missed the segment early on explaining his motives. Nonetheless his wife seems to be the only lynchpin in keeping him somewhat grounded; when he loses her, that’s pretty much it, he goes all out and overexaggerated in both his grief and his will to just control everything around him.

Tamburlaine overall is a war tale, with the main character bull-dosing onward to attain his goals as emperor of the world. The play feels more accessible than Shakespeare at some parts, although I think it might just be the nature of the story. It’s pretty epic in scope, crossing different kingdoms across the eastern Mediterranean, northern Africa, and western/central Asia. It also has a massive cast, although it’s not quite the plethora as Henry VI Part 2 (review), I think. In the end, it is an interesting, though I personally didn’t find as complex, look at a man with great ambition but ultimately succumbing.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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