Tamburlaine the Great

Tamburlaine the Great Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The Crown (Symbol)

The crown is used as a symbol for regal power. When the kings conquered by Tamburlaine are left without their crown, they are left without the power they once had. Mycetes is the only one who tries to hide his crown, by putting it into a hole. Mycetes confuses they symbol of his power with kingship itself and tries to keep it safe. In Marlowe’s play, the crown is a symbol used to express the desirability of earthly power over heavenly status. Tamburlaine recognizes the significance that the crowns have, and therefore fights for them.

Pride (Motif)

Pride is a recurring idea, or motif, in Tamburlaine the Great. Pride can be found in almost every character, from Tamburlaine to the kings he conquers. Tamburlaine’s capital sin is pride and the belief that he can become equal to God or even higher than him. Bajazeth is another character whose pride leads to his downfall. Even though he is Tamburlaine’s captive, he refuses to please Tamburlaine through a humble attitude and in the end ends up killing himself instead of being humiliated.

Zenocrate (Allegory)

Zenocrate is an allegory used in the play. As a queen, she represents a maternal figure, without which Tamburlaine’s conquests would be insignificant. Tamburlaine needs not only the lands he conquers but also a queen to justify and give meaning to his actions. When Zenocarte dies, Tamburlaine automatically starts to search for greater challenges. The presence of an influential queen in Tamburlaine is an allegory of European colonial practice, directly relating to England’s Queen Elizabeth.

Tamburlaine (Symbol)

Tamburlaine can be considered one of Marlowe’s first atheist characters. Marlowe was known for challenging the ideas accepted by the Church and was even accused of atheism, disagreeing with the dogmas that the Church imposed in a time when standing up against religion was a dangerous thing. Instead of criticizing religion directly, Marlowe uses Tamburlaine as a flexible symbol against religion and the Catholicism promoted in his time.

Faustian motif

Tamburlaine, just like Faust, lost his soul. Unlike Faust, who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for more knowledge and wealth, Tamburlaine gradually loses his soul through his actions and choices that make him dammed. His humanity and soul are lost when Zenocrate dies, she being the one who gave meaning to his actions, and also when Tamburlaine kills his own son, symbolizing the loss of his humanity.