Let us praise the lucid, well-organized scholarly articles of many years past, pre the deconstructive nihilism that has plagued so much literary criticism since the 1970s. Leslie Spence's "Tamburlaine and Marlowe" (PMLA, Vol. 42, No. 3; Sept. 1927) is a great one. Spence methodically challenges the assumption that the Tamburlaine figure is "a faithful expression of Marlowe's own personality." Spence maintains that the Tartar conqueror depicted by Marlowe is too historically accurate for one to make the assumption that he's somehow a reflection of Marlowe's own views: "Infinite ambition, inordinate lust of dominion, and unbounded belief in his own victorious destiny are [. . .] outstanding qualities in the sixteenth century conception of Tamburlaine, not products of Marlowe's invention." Where Marlowe does primarily offer a personal preference, however, is in adding "emotional complexity" to the character for dramatic purposes and in making Tamburlaine more admirable by omitting his cruelty and framing his harsh punishments as just. The overwhelming rest of it (ambition, lust of dominion, etc.) are culled from the histories of Tamburlaine, thus rendering the Tamburlaine/Marlowe oneness "purely fanciful."
© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, January 2009
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