Tamburlaine's Malady: And Other Essays on Astrology in Elizabethan Drama

By Johnstone Parr | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
FOOLISH MYCETES' UNFORTUNATE HOROSCOPE

WITH THE POSSIBLE EXCEPTION of Bajazeth, Tamburlaine's chief adversary, none of the minor characters who give vitality to Marlowe Tamburlaine, Part 1, are distinguished or even characterized in the several accounts which Marlowe used as sources.1 Because of this meagerness of raw materials, Marlowe was compelled to fall back upon his originality in making the minor characters distinct.2 In doing so he characterized Mycetes, King of Persia, as so utterly absurd that he might be classed with that group of dramatic simpletons headed by Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Mycetes is nevertheless the first obstacle in Tamburlaine's path of conquest, is therefore essential to Tamburlaine's rise, and (as one critic of the play has remarked) "remains one of the few humorous characters in Elizabethan drama intrinsic to the central story yet subordinate to it."3 The following discussion presents a neglected aspect of Marlowe's characterization of this silly old king; or, specifically, shows how by means of astrology Marlowe has vitalized the character of Mycetes--and incidentally the character of Cosroe also.

The play opens with the following dialogue between Mycetes and his brother, Cosroe, who is envious that such a stupid man as Mycetes wears the crown:

Mycetes: Brother Cosroe, I find myself agriev'd;
Yet insufficient to express the same,

____________________
1
The principal sources for Tamburlaine are pointed out in Una M. Ellis- Fermor's edition of the play, Tambarlaine the Great ( London, 1930), pp. 17-61; and in Thomas C. Izard "The Principal Source of Marlowe's Tamburlaine," MLN, LVIII ( 1943), 411-417. See also Leslie Spence, "The Influence of Marlowe's Sources on Tamburlaine I," MP, XXIV ( 1926), 181-199, and "Tamburlaine and Marlowe," PMLA, XLII ( 1927), 604-622.
2
That Marlowe has done this has been adequately shown by Miss Spence in her two papers cited above.
3
Spence, op. cit., p. 191.

-24-

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