Yoon-Hee Park

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School


First Advisor

Bruce E. Brandt


Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine the Great, Parts I and II are built around a single towering superman, Tamburlaine, just as three of his other plays are built around strong protagonists: Barabas, Guise, and Faustus. Most critics have acknowledged that the protagonist, Tamburlaine, is "the only unifying factor," or "the be-all and end-all of the action. "From the beginning to the end, both plays unfold while centering exclusively on the protagonist, and the protagonist powerfully dominates both plays. The other characters of the play are often referred to merely as Tamburlaine's “puppets" and serve as his foils. Furthermore, the subsidiary figures, whether miserable or not, are enormously influenced and wholly swayed by Tamburlaine's movements. In turn, Tamburlaine is generous and fair to his loyal friends, while savagely bloody and cruel to his disobedient enemies. Throughout both plays, with the exception of the Soldan and Zenocrate, the other characters never change their attitudes toward Tamburlaine, and Tamburlaine also never changes his attitude toward them. Therefore, Irving Ribner has criticized that all the characters of the Tamburlaine plays are "fixed and changeless," and "there is no development, and when the play ends, they are no more or no less than they had been at the beginning. "C. B. Kuriyama has similarly remarked that "Tamburlaine may be fairly described as a play of extremes that tends to represent experience as a continuous oscillation between opposites,"' and that "no character in these plays possesses strengths and weaknesses in roughly equal proportions." In view of these remarks, "there is no middle ground"' in Tamburlaine's world. But it is my opinion that there is one exceptional character in Tamburlaine's world--the "fair" and "divine" Zenocrate. On the whole, then, Zenocrate seems to be timid and elusive, but her presence in both plays is crucial to understanding Tamburlaine and his world. Apparently, because of Zenocrate's absence, Part· II seems to lose its balance as the play goes on, while Part I remains balanced because of her presence. My aim in this thesis is to study the meaning of Zenocrate in both Tambu rlaine plays. The main focus of this work will be on the relationship of Tamburlaine and Zenocrate: Zenocrate's meaning as conceived by Tamburlaine, her influence (particularly her moderating influence) over Tamburlaine and his reaction to her influence, the meaning of Zenocrate's death and its impact on Tamburlaine, and the outcome of the reciprocal conflicts of both figures.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Marlowe, Christopher, 1564-1593 -- Criticism and interpretation

Marlowe, Christopher, 1564-1593. Tamburlaine the Great -- Criticism and interpretation



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University