Tamburlaine the Great Literary Elements

Tamburlaine the Great Literary Elements





Setting and Context

Present time in various places like Persepolis, Egypt, Scythia, Africa, Damascus and Babylon.

Narrator and Point of View

Because it is a drama, the narrator is present only through stage directions and all the other details are given through the dialogue of the characters in the play.

Tone and Mood

Frightening, violent, tragic, unsettling

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonist is Tamburlaine, a shepherd that became king, and the antagonists are the kings that Tamburlaine fights in order to conquer their lands. Such characters are Cosroe, Mycetes, The king of Arabia, the governor of Babylon, Bajazeth and Callapine.

Major Conflict

The major conflict is between Tamburlaine and the other kings, and their conflict results from the desire to hold as much power as possible.


The scene in the second part when Tamburlaine killed his son could be considered the climax of the play. If until then, Tamburlaine was presented as humane despite his flaws, from the moment he kills his son, he also kills his humanity. From that point on, Tamburlaine starts to lose his power and the men self-proclaimed as being more powerful and important that the Gods eventually die.


Tamburlaine’s death is foreshadowed by Calyphas’ death.


Calyphas stands out as a proponent of witty understatement when he sees the two armies ready to fight. When he says that ‘’there will be some hurt done’’, it is an understatement referring to the damage caused by Tamburlaine’s army.


Being a writer in the Renaissance period, Marlow recovers some of the ideas found in ancient mythology. It is only natural that some ideas and allusions towards mythology are made in the play. While in Shakespeare, some of the allusions are clearly stated, in Marlowe’s works, they are hidden and less predominant.
It can be said that Marlowe imagined Tamburlaine as being a titan. In the Ancient Greek mythology, titans were preceded Olympian Gods but were members of the second order of divine beings. The Titanomachy was the war between the Titans and new Gods that lasted 10 years at the end of witch, the titans were defeated and locked away and a new generation of Gods took their place.
Tamburlaine can be considered a Titan of his time. He managed to rise almost to a God like position, feared and respected by all, only to be cast away from his high position by death. Unlike the Ancient Greek mythology, where the Titans were cast away by the younger Gods, Tamburlaine had to lose his position because of the mentality of the time. Even if Marlowe sympathizes with his character throughout the play, in the end he feel compelled to kill Tamburlaine because the Christian mentality of the time could not permit a character that is consumed by pride and violence, a character who lost his humanity, to remain in a position fit for a God, ruling over an empire.
Even if the allusion is not as clear as in other works of that time, there is no doubt that Tamburlaine is a Titan that felt from his position because of his pride and love for war.


In the first part of the play, Act III Scene II, Tamburlaine is presented through the Zenocarate’s eyes in a romantic way, portraying him more like a savior that the person who kidnapped her. This image is destroyed however when Tamburlaine orders that Agydas to be killed because he expressed reserves concerning Tamburlaine and so his murderous nature is confirmed.


The way Marlowe describes the defeated kings is a paradox to the way it describes the ones who remained in their rightful place. While the Kings who still had power were seen as representing power, the defeated ones were degraded to state resembling buffoons, used for entertainment and at the mercy of the conqueror.


A parallelism is created between the first part and the second part of the play, regarding the foes that Tamburlaine has to face. In the first part, Tamburlaine’s biggest foe is Zenocrate, a foe that he conquers by making her fall in love with him. In the second part however, the foe that Tamburlaine has to face is death. Even if it is Zenocrate’s death or his own, Tamburlaine is hopeless in his battle against death.


in the first part ''My sword struck fire from his coat of steel,''

Use of Dramatic Devices

There are a few monologues that can be found in play from witch Tamburlaine’s true personality is showed. He manifests proudness in excess, comparing himself frequently with the Gods and believing that nothing can affect him.
His love for Zenocarte is also showed in the monologue linked to her death, a time when Tamburlaine shows compassion and pain, emotions that are not expressed in other place regarding his character.

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