Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Discoveries observes :—" The true artificer will not run away from Nature as he were afraid of her; or depart from life and the likeness of truth; but speak to the capacity of his hearers. And though his language diners from the vulgar somewhat it will not fly from all humanity, with the Tamerlanes and Tamer-Chams of the late age, which had nothing in them but the scenical strutting and furious vociferation to warrant them to the ignorant gapers." Wither in Britain's Remembrancer (1628) alludes to "great Tamburlaine upon his throne" uttering

"A majestical oration To strike his hearers dead with admiration."

Taylor, the Water-Poet, in his Oration to the Great Mogul, states that Tamburlaine "perhaps is not altogether so famous in his own country of Tartaria as in England." From a passage (quoted by Dyce) of Cowley's Guardian it appears that the old play was revived at the Bull about 1650. In 1681 it had become almost wholly forgotten; for in the preface to his play, Tamerlane, published in that year, Charles Saunders writes :—" It hath been told me there is a Cock-pit play going under the name of The Scythian Shepherd, or Tamberlain the Great, which how good it is any one may judge by its obscurity, being a thing not a bookseller in London, or scarce the players themselves who acted it formerly, cow'd call to remembrance."

In the pages of the Academy (October 20, 1883), two able scholars, Mr. C. H. Herford and Mr. A. Wagner, have investigated the authorities from which Marlowe drew his conception of Tamburlaine's character and history. They show, at some length, and at the cost of considerable research, that Marlowe was indebted to the lives of Timur, by Pedro Mexia the Spaniard, and Petrus Perondinus. Mexia's Silva de varia leciort, published at Seville in 1543, obtained great popularity, and was translated into Italian, French, and English. The English translation, known as Fortescue's The Foreste, appeared in 1571 ; and there can be little doubt that the book was an early favourite of Marlowe's. When he determined to dramatise the story the poet probably supplemented the information derived from Mexia by a study of Perondinus' Vita magni Tamerlanis, Flor., 1551. The description of Tamburlaine's person, as given by Perondinus, seems certainly to have been in Marlowe's remembrance. "Of stature, tall " is a translation of "Statura fuit procera;" and "his joints so strongly knit," exactly corresponds with "valida erat usque adeo nervorum compage." But, in order to render his hero's appearance as majestic as possible, Marlowe omits mention of the lameness on which Perondinus dwells. Messrs. Herford and Wagner conclude their scholarly paper with a suggestion that the poet "enriched his conception of the remote and littleknown countries, Persia and Scythia, from his classical reading in Herodotus, Euripides, and Xenophon," and that "the drawing of the weak Persians, Mycetes, Chosroes, and Theridamas, twhose 'weakness' is not touched by Mexia, is exactly what we should expect from a youth fresh from those old books in which Persian effeminacy is so piquantly contrasted with the hardihood of Greece."

Before leaving Tamburlaine a word must be said about Marlowe's introduction_of_hla.nk yerse. Unrhymed verse of ten syllables had been employed both for epic and dramatic purposes before Marlowe's time. The _EarJ--of~ Oui iuy7 in his translation of Books ii. and iv. of Virgil's y£neid, had been the first to transplant the metre from Italy. Surrey was a charming sonneteer and graceful lyrist; but it would be absurd to claim that his translations from Virgil afford the slightest hint of the capabilities of blank verse. It is impossible to select six consecutive lines that satisfy the ear. Without freedom or swing the procession of languid lines limps feebly forward. When we come Xo Gorboduc, the first dramatic.piece in which rhyme was discarded, the case is no better. Little advance, or rather none at all, has been made in rendering the verse more flexible. Misled by classical usage, ^ll}writers before Marlowe aimed at composing blank verse on the model of Greek iambics. Confusing accent with quantity, they regarded accentuated and unaccentuated syllables as respectively long and short. Hence the aim was to end each line with a strongly accentuated syllable, immediately preceded by one that was unaccentuated; in the rest of the line unaccentuated and accentuated syllables occurred alternately. Then, to complete the monotony, at the end of each verse came a pause, which effectually excluded all freedom of movemeniP* This state of things Marlowe abolished . At a touch of the master's hand the heavygaited verses took symmetry and shape. That the blank verse of Tamburlaine left much to be desired in the way of variety is, of course, undeniable. Its sonorous music is fitted rather for epjf than dramatic, purposes. The swelling rotundity of the italicised lines in the following passage recalls the magnificent rhythm of Milton :—

"The galleys and those pilling brigandines
That ^arly sail to the Venetian Gulf,
And hover in the Straits for Christians' wreck,
Shall lie at anchor in the Isle Asant
Until the Persian fleet and men-of-war,
Sailing along the oriental sea,
Have fetched about the Indian continent
Even from Persepolis to Mexico."

Later, Marlowe learned to breathe sweetness and softness into his "mighty line,"—to make the measure that .had thundered the threats of Tamburlaine falter the sobs of a broken heart.

On the authority of a memorandum in Coxeter's MSS., Warton stated that in the year 1587, the date to which Tamburlaine is usually assigned, Marlowe translated Coluthus' Rape of Helen into English rhyme. This translation, if it ever existed, has not come down. The version of the Amoves must belong to a somewhat earlier date. Dyce conjectures that it was written as a college exercise (surely not at the direction of the college authorities). It is a spirited translation, though the inaccuracies are manifold; in licentiousness, I am compelled to add, it is a match for the original. Its popularity was great, Vol. 1. c

and—printed in company with Sir John Davies' Epigrams —it passed through several editions, which are all undated, and bear the imprint "Middleborugh" or "Middlebourgh" (in Holland). In June 1599, by order of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Marlowe's translation (together with Marston's Pygmalion, Hall's Satires, and Cutwode's Caltha Poetaruni) was committed to the flames; but it continued to be published abroad, and some editions, with the imprint Middleborough on the title-page, were surreptitiously printed at London.1

The Tragical History of Dr. Fausius was probably composed soon after Tamburlaine. In February 1588-9 a "ballad of the life and death of Doctor Faustus the great Cungerer" was entered in the Stationers' Registers. It is probable that this ballad (which is perhaps identical with the Ballad of Faustus* preserved in the Roxburghe Collection) was founded on the play. No mention of the play occurs in Henslowe's Diary earlier than September 30, 1594, although the entries go back to February 1591-2. As the profits from the performance were unusually high 3 on that occasion, we may conjecture that the play had been revived after a considerable interval. A German critic, Dr. J. H. Albers, suggests that the reference to the Prince of Parma as

1 For full bibliographical particulars, see Vol. III. p. 104. s See Vol. I. p. 321.

s " Rd. at Docter Fostose . . . iiju xij>." (Henslowe's Diary, ed. J. P. Collier, p. 42.) Between September 1594 and October 1597 the Diary contains notices of twenty-three performances of Faustus. At the last performance, interest in the play having evaporated, the receipts were nil.

« ZurückWeiter »