‘And Scourging Kingdoms with his Conquering Sword’

  • George L. Geckle
Part of the Text and Performance book series (TEPE)


What we find in the language of Tamburlaine, then, is an incredible glorification of both the hero and his aspirations. However, some critics and scholars, most notably Roy W. Battenhouse, have argued that Marlowe really intended to place Tamburlaine within a moral Christian framework of belief and that Marlowe’s audiences would have responded to the hero, finally, in a negative way. Tamburlaine’s savagery was undoubtedly understood by the Elizabethans in theological terms — he is, after all, called ‘the Scourge of God’ on both the title-page of the 1590 octavo and in the dialogue itself (see especially Part II, iv i 148–60 and v i 181–3). Marlowe might well have found warrant for the presentation of a de casibus tragedy in such a source as George Whetstone’s The English Myrror (London, 1586) — in which Bajazeth is regarded as ‘a notable example of the incertaintye of worldly fortunes’ and Tamburlaine, ‘although … endued with many excellencies and vertues: yet it seemed by his cruelty, that God raysed him to chasten the kings and proud people of the earth’ (pp. 81–2). Within this context, as Battenhouse has argued in Marlowe’s ‘Tamburlaine’: A Study in Renaissance Moral Philosophy (Nashville, Tenn., 1941), the ‘scourge’ is eventually himself brought down by God’s avenging wrath.


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© George L. Geckle 1988

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  • George L. Geckle

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