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The Voice of Marlowe's Tamburlaine in Early Shakespeare Maurice Charney I do not presume to unveil the secret of Marlowe's relation to Shakespeare, but the more I study this question the more complex the relation seems to be. In general, Shakespeare goes out of his way to conceal his indebtedness to Marlowe. Shylock in The Merchant of Venice is very differently conceived from Barabas in The Jew ofMalta.1 Barabas even begins the play with heroic, vaunting speeches. Richard II is eloquent and poetic, even to a fault, whereas Edward II is rather plain and blunt and just wants to be left alone to enjoy his sodomitical pleasures. Yet both The Merchant of Venice and Richard II are clearly based on Marlowe . The Jew of Malta and Edward II offer models for Shakespeare 's plays,2 and in some important sense Marlowe's plays are embedded in Shakespeare's. One can discover residual traces everywhere. Marlowe is hardly a source for Shakespeare, in the sense that Shakespeare repeats verbally his source material, but rather a model. Occasionally, however, Shakespeare does blatantly echo Marlowe , and we seem to hear the voice of Tamburlaine, particularly, in his early works. This recognition of an alien style comes as something of a shock to audiences and readers alike. The effect is one of parody, which is not overt until Shakespeare has clarified his own relation to Marlowe by the time of 2 Henry IV, especially in the style of Pistol. In his stimulating and complex essay from 1961, "Marlowe as Provocative Agent in Shakespeare 's Early Plays," Nicholas Brooke speaks of Tamburlainean "eruptions" in Shakespeare.3 There is a distinctly dermatological cast to this word, as in the first definition of the word 'tetter' in the Oxford English Dictionary: "A general term for any pustular herpetiform eruption of the skin, as eczema, herpes, impetigo, ringworm, etc." This is like Claudius speaking passionately of Hamlet just before he ships him off to his certain death in England : "For like the hectic in my blood he rages" (4.3.66).4 We do 213 214Comparative Drama not know if Marlowe raged like the hectic fever in Shakespeare's blood, but we do know that there is a whole series of Tamburlainean eruptions in early Shakespeare, as if he wanted occasionally to make fun of his indebtedness by exposing it in such a blatant form. Is the Tamburlainean mode in Shakespeare vaunting and heroic, or is it anti-heroic by its suggestion of parody? These questions can never be definitively answered. The most striking example in Shakespeare of the Tamburlaine style is in Aaron's opening soliloquy in Titus Andronicus. This is his very first speech in the play, but his vaunting bravado is not his characteristic style at all, and his display begins and ends with this speech: Now climbeth Tamora Olympus' top, Safe out of fortune's shot, and sits aloft, Secure of thunder's crack or lightning flash, Advanced above pale envy's threat'ning reach. (2. 1 . 1—4) It is odd to imagine Tamora, the flamboyant Queen of the Goths, as a Greek goddess on top of Mount Olympus, the home of the gods, out of the reach of envious fortune, thunder, lightning, and envy. Tamora is glorified in a grand Homeric simile: As when the golden sun salutes the morn So Tamora. Upon her wit doth earthly honor wait, And virtue stoops and trembles at her frown. (5-11) She is like Juno—or at least Zenocrate—commanding all before her. Aaron conceives of his own role in relation to Tamora' s greatness, the way Tamburlaine thinks of himself in relation to Zenocrate: Then, Aaron, arm thy heart, and fit thy thoughts To mount aloft with thy imperial mistress, And mount her pitch, whom thou in triumph long Hast prisoner held, fettered in amorous chains, And faster bound to Aaron's charming eyes Than is Prometheus tied to Caucasus. (12-17) The erotic tone of this speech is absent from Tamburlaine, but the soaring, amplitudinous imagery and the music of the long period pushing on to its triumphant conclusion is familiar from Marlowe. Maurice Charney215 Aaron's "charming" eyes...