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The first part of Tamburlaine' was printed in 1590. We have not received it entire in the form in which it was acted. The publisher says, in a prefatory address, “ I have purposely omitted some fond and frivolous gestures, digressing, and, in my poor opinion, far unmeet for the matter; which I thought might seem more tedious unto the wise than any way else to be regarded, though haply they have been of some vain conceited fondlings greatly gaped at, what time they were showed upon the stage in their graced deformities.” It is impossible to open “ Tamburlaine,' at any page, without feeling that we have lighted upon a work of power. We encounter perpetual instances of the most extravagant taste; the inflated style invades, without intermission, the debateable ground between the sublime and the ridiculous; the characters are destitute of interest, with the exception of the gorgeous savage who perpetually fills the scene; we look in vain for the slightest approach to simplicity. But still we are not wearied with the feeble platitudes that belong to the herd of imitators. Shakspere has one or two good-natured hits at the bombast of Tamburlaine;' and Pistol's allusion to the “pamper'd jades of Asia ” is doubly pointed, when we know that the jades are two kings, who are thus described in the stage-direction :-“Enter Tamburlaine, drawn in his chariot by Trebizond and Syria, with bits in their mouths, reins in his left hand, in his right hand a whip, with which he scourgeth them.” It is unnecessary for us to enter upon any separate examination of this extraordinary performance with reference to Marlowe's versification ; for whatever differences it may exhibit to the blank-verse of · Ferrex and Porrex,' they are not defined enough to constitute a style; his verse as yet was confessedly unformed. With regard to the other points of Marlowe's poetical character that bear upon the authorship of The Contention of the Houses of York and Lancaster,' they may be better examined after a rapid notice of all his works that have come down to us.
The plays that can be unhesitatingly assigned to Marlowe are,the two Parts of • Tamburlaine,' “The Massacre of Paris," " Faustus, “The Jew of Malta,' and ` Edward II.' There can be no doubt, whatever be the defects of these performances, that they are the work of a very remarkable man,—one that stood apart from the mass of his contemporaries to impress the peculiarities of his genius upon everything he touched. The wild magnificence, the unbridled passion, the fierceness of love or hatred, the revelling in blood and cruelty without fear or remorse, the pride in being accounted a scourge of God—these attributes of the character of Tamburlaine
were precisely suited to the power which Marlowe possessed for their development. In the furnace of his imagination not only the images and figurative allusions, but the whole material of his poetry,—the action, the characterization, and the style,-became all of the same white heat. Everything in “Tamburlaine' burns. The characters walk about like the damned in “Vathek,' with hearts of real fire in their bosoms. They speak in language such as no human beings actually employ,—not because they are Orientals, but because they are not men and women. They look to us as things apart from this earth,—not because they are clothed in “ barbaric pearl and gold,” but because their feelings are not our feelings, and their thoughts not our thoughts. The queen of the hero is dying in his presence: though he tied kings to his chariotwheels, and scourged them with whips, he is represented as accessible to the softer emotions; and the lover thus pours forth his lament:
“ Proud fury, and intolerable fit,
Giving thee nectar and ambrosia,
Come down from heav'n, and live with me again." · The Massacre of Paris,' which Mr. Collier thinks “ was produced soon after 1588,” is essentially without dramatic interest. It was a subject in which Marlowe would naturally revel; for in the progress of the action blood could be made to flow as freely as water. Charles Lamb wittily says, “ Blood is made as light of in some of these old dramas as money in a modern sentimental comedy; and as this is given away till it reminds us that it is nothing but counters, so that is spilt till it affects us no more than its representative, the paint of the property-man in the theatre.” Unquestionably this was a characteristic of the transition-state of the drama; and • Titus Andronicus' is a memorable example of it. But Marlowe, especially, revels in these exhibitions; and in “The Jew of Malta' the passion is carried to the verge of the ludicrous. The effect intended to be produced is, of course, utterly defeated by these wholesale displays of brutality. As we pity the “one solitary captive,” so we weep over the one victim of another's passions; but the revenge of Barabas, the poisoning not only of his own daughter but of the entire nunnery in which she had taken refuge, the massacres, the treacheries, the burning caldron that he had intended for a whole garrison, and into which he is himself plunged, -tragedy such as this is simply revolting. The characters of Barabas and of his servant, and the motives by which they are stimulated, are the mere coinage of extravagance; and the effect is as essentially undramatic as the personification is unreal. We subjoin a specimen of the conversation of this remarkable pair:
“ Bar. As for myself, I walk abroad a nights,
With digging graves and ringing dead men's knells :
Itha. 'Faith, master, in setting christian villages on fire,
Go limping home to Christendom on stilts.” · Faustus' is of a higher cast than · The Jew of Malta, although it was probably written before it. Mr. Collier conceives that · Faustus’ was intended to follow up "Tamburlaine;' while he assigns · The Jew' to 1589 or 1590. Its great merit lies in the conception of the principal character. It is undramatic in the general progress of the action; full of dark subtleties, that rather reveal the condition of Marlowe's own mind than lead to the popular appreciation of the character which he painted; and the comedy with which it is blended is perfectly out of keeping, neither harmonising with the principal action, nor relieving it by contrast. But still there is wonderful power. It is, however, essentially the power of Marlowe, to whom it was not given, as to the “myriad -minded man,” to go out of himself to realise the truth of every form of human thought and passion, and even to make the supernatural a reality. It was for Marlowe to put his own habits of mind into his dramatic creations; to grapple with terrors that would be revolting to a well-disciplined understanding; “to wander in fields where curiosity is forbidden to go; to approach the dark gulf near enough to look in; to be busied in speculations which are the rottenest part of the core of the fruit that fell from the tree of knowledge.” * It is in this spirit, Lamb holds, that he dealt with the characters of Barabas and Faustus. May we not add that, when he worked upon a new model,—when he produced his “ Edward II.,' in all probability his latest play,-he could not even then avoid exposing “a mind which at least delighted to dabble with interdicted subjects”? The character of Gaveston is certainly not drawn as Shakspere would have drawn it: if there had been a necessity for so treating the subject, he would have abandoned it altogether.
Within a year or two of his death the genius of Marlowe was thus revelling in the exercise of its own peculiar qualities; displaying alike its strength and its weakness, its refinement and its grossness. In his latest period he produced the · Edward II.' Mr. Collier mentions this as “if not the last, certainly one of the most perfect, of Marlowe's productions. . .... Here the author's versification is exhibited in its greatest excellence.” It was entered at Stationers' Hall in July 1593, the unhappy poet having been killed in the previous month. We presume, therefore, that those who hold that Marlowe wrote the two Parts of “The Contention between the Houses of York and Lancaster'—the two old plays upon which Shakspere founded the Second and Third Parts of Henry VI.'— also hold that they were written before Marlowe's · Edward II.' Chalmers was the first to broach the theory of Marlowe's authorship of these plays. Malone, as we have seen, propounded, with minute circumstantiality, in his · Dissertation,' how Greene “ could not conceal his mortification” that he and Peele had been robbed of their property by a “new upstart writer.” But Malone, in his · Chronological Order,' arraigns the thief under an entirely new indictment. Some circumstances, he says, which have lately struck him, confirm an opinion that Marlowe was the author. And he then goes on to produce “confirmations strong as proofs of holy writ.” “ A passage in his (Marlowe’s) historical drama of 'King Edward II.,' which Dr. Farmer has pointed out to me since the · Dissertation' was printed, also inclines me to believe, with him, that Marlowe was the author of one, if not both, of the old dramas on which Shakspeare formed the two plays which in the first folio edition of his works are distinguished by the titles of the Second and Third Parts of King Henry VI.' ” The passage which produced this recantation of Malone's former opinion is that of the two celebrated lines in · The Second Part of the Contention :'
“What, will the aspiring blood of Lancaster
* Lamb's “Specimens,' vol. i., p. 44.