Monday, January 12, 2009

Tamburlaine and Marlowe

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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Anonymous said...


excellent, informative website

CARLO D. said...

Let me clarify. This is an excellent piece of scholarship--from the 1920s. There have been many exceptional articles since then, of course, on Tamburlaine . . . a number of which refute Spence.

Anonymous said...

Mr. DiNota,

I love this website!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

You know, it always really annoys me when people assume that Marlowe's personality must have been exactly like that of his main characters. He wrote fiction, for goodness's sake. He was a talented enough writer that he could have "stepped into the shoes" of a character without just writing his own personality.