Essay on Tamburlaine and Tragic Heroism

Essay on Tamburlaine and Tragic Heroism

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Tamburlaine and Tragic Heroism

In his two plays, Tamburlaine the Great, Parts I and II, Marlowe deviates from the norms of the theory of tragedy in his depiction of Tamburlaine. According to the Aristotelian theory of tragedy, a tragic hero is of a noble origin and enjoys a great rank right from the very beginning of the play. Furthermore, a tragic hero is, in a simple sense, a man likeable for his goodness or greatness. A tragic hero, in addition, is doomed to make a serious error that will cause his downfall and tragic death finally evoking pity and fear in the audience. In fact, Tamburlaine's character noticeably violates these three elements of the model tragic hero.

Firstly, Tamburlaine is ironically of a base birth. In fact he is a Scythian shepherd by birth and does not enjoy any noble rank in his environment. The irony is underlined when he unrighteously wins the crown of Persia. Mycetes' crown is taken over by Tamburlaine neither by means of physical power nor by righteous nobility, but strangely enough by means of astounding speeches. Tamburlaine is endowed, instead of noble birth, the ability to produce soul-stirring speeches. He, for instance, easily provokes the admiration of Theridamas to such a degree that makes him say: "Not Hermes, prolocutor to the gods, could use persuasions more pathetical." (pt. 1, I.ii.210) Moved by Tamburlaine's speech, Theridamas treacherously throws Mycetes aside and sides with Tamburlaine. It is worth shedding light in this context on the fact that as Tamburlaine acquires the military power, he turns to depend on it rather than on his speeches. We seem him only negotiate once; not feeling strong enough, he negotiates Theridamas to gain him to his side, but later on he merely depend...


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...to the element of Catharsis, which is the evocation of pity and/or fear in the audience. Actually, Tamburlaine's end does not arise much pity since the pity of the audience is at its maximum only when the character is noble, which is a feature that Tamburlaine lacks as indicated earlier in this essay.

Finally, Tamburlaine fails to fit into the definition the tragic hero. He is merely a low classed man who rises by illegitimate means and then naturally goes back to his lowliness. The maximal point of interaction between the audience and the tragedy is when Catharsis is provoked, a point that Tamburlaine fails to meet. Well, the historical background of the play tells us that Tamburlaine the Great, Part II did not reap much of the audience's admiration; again this is theoretically attributed to the fact that Tamburlaine mismatches the definition of tragic heroes.

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