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Title: Religious elements in Marlowe's 'Tamburlaine'
Author: Audette, Florestine
ISNI:       0000 0001 3432 7675
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 1979
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Studies of Marlowe's Tamburlaine invariably point to the apparent lack of unity in a play which appears to be but a series of loosely-connected episodes. By analysing the religious content of this drama, this study attempts to show how religious elements to some extent define the hero, explain the nature and the areas of dramatic tension and provide principles of coherence for the play as a whole. Various aspects are examined. A comparison of the historical background of Timur with the legendary accounts of Tamerlane's career shows how chroniclers seem to have freed Timur from Moslem traits and to have invested him instead with religious ones pore appealing to Christian admirers. However, Marlowe recreates a Moslem setting for his hero. An analysis of the Moslem content of the play reveals how the dramatist has associated idolatrous connotations, mostly drawn from the Bible, with the Moslem practices of the Turks. Thus, the idolatrous character of the Turks, which Marlowe carefully preserves throughout the play, forms the basis of the dramatic tension. The Turks deserve to be destroyed by the scourging Tamburlaine. Meanwhile, Marlowe develops a twofold image of his hero. The worldly aims, the religion of war, and the self-deifying pursuits of the pagan Tamburlaine match those of the Moslem and posthumously idealized Mahomet. At the same time, Tamburlaine accomplishes his mission as a scourge by defeating the Turkish Bajazet and his Turkish generals. As a climax to his scourging activities, Tamburlaine challenges his spiritual rival Mahomet by destroying his image as a god and by symbolically burning the Koran. The pagan character of Tamburlaine and his divine mission as scourge become reconcilable and meaningful only when his career is studied in reference to the careers of Biblical scourges. Material gleaned from a close comparison of Marlowe's text with the texts and notes of the 1560 Geneva Bible and the 1572 revised edition of the Bishops version brings out the similarities between Tamburlaine and Biblical tyrants like Sennacherib, Nabuchadnezzar, and Cyrus. Driven by pride and ambition, these tyrants wage relentless wars and, at the same time, act as special instruments of God. Elizabethans, familiar with the Biblical text, would have detected these implied similarities. Religious elements thus define the hero and suggest the framework which provides coherent unity. This study leaves much yet to be examined. It does not attempt to solve any of the problems of scholarship which beset the Marlovian student but deals mainly with the ideas in the play. It does not even pretend to be exhaustive, in the areas explored. The exact religious function of the array of mythological gods and of the many natural phenomena referred to, as well as the literary and dramatic devices used by Marlowe to convey these ideas, all stand in need of careful scrutiny in order that the place and content of the religious elements in Tamburlaine be fully analysed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Ministère de l'éducation, Québec
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PR English literature