Attention, senior Amherst English majors: the academic year may not have even officially started yet for us seasoned upperclassmen, but our comprehensive exam will sneak up before you know it. Maybe you’re super-prepared and have already gone through the whole reading list. Maybe you haven’t even looked at the reading list. Maybe, like me, you’ve gotten through one-half of one selection on the reading list, and already want to shoot yourself. Anyway, for all those who have not yet read Christopher Marlowe’s “Tamburlaine, Part 1,” I offer up this abridged, totally legitimate edition. Seriously, all you need to do is read this, and I’m sure you’ll pass comps, no problem.
And if you’re wondering how I had the time to write this: family vacations are brutal. That is all I have to say.
Tamburlaine the Repetitive, Part 1
MYCETES, the stupidest King of Persia
COSROE, his brother, and second-stupidest King of Persia
numerous Persian LORDS WITH UNPRONOUNCEABLE NAMES, whom I have renamed for convenience’s sake
TAMBURLAINE, a bad-ass, because the author says so, even if you barely ever see him actually fight anyone
ZENOCRATE, easily persuaded Egyptian princess
BAJAZETH, Emperor of Greece, Turkey, and other random places that are absolutely nowhere near Turkey
ZABINA, his disturbed wife
the SULTAN OF EGYPT, Zenocrate’s equally gullible father
the KING OF ARABIA, Zenocrate’s so-inconsequential-he-doesn’t-even-get-a-name fiancee
FOUR VIRGINS, a cautionary tale of chastity
several RANDOS with one line
the READER, the last bastion of sanity
MARLOWE, d-bag author with a fifth the talent of Shakespeare
(enter Mycetes, Cosroe, and several Lords with Unpronounceable Names)
MYCETES: Friends, I have been unhappy lately. Brother Cosroe, tell everyone why I am unhappy, since you are obviously psychic and I am apparently too lazy to speak at the moment.
COSROE: You’re an idiot.
MYCETES: I’m unhappy because I’m an idiot? No, I don’t think that’s right, brother.
COSROE: No, I wasn’t answering your dumb question, I was just pointing out that you are an astoundingly great idiot.
MYCETES: Hmm, that sounds vaguely insulting, brother. Treasonous, even! Should I punish you, brother?
COSROE: You are confoundingly stupid, and I can’t wait until I overthrow you and take the crown for myself.
MYCETES: Ha! Nay, your little jest does not affect me, Cosroe. Live on, despite your treason! I see no harm coming from this situation, none at all.
COSROE: YOU ARE LITERALLY THE STUPIDEST PERSON WHO HAS EVER LIVED.
MYCETES: Now, Lord Misanthrope, can you tell me why I’m unhappy?
MISANTHROPE: Well, this Tamburlaine guy has been robbing your merchants and threatening to conquer your kingdom…but you just sent Lord Thermometer to deal with him five minutes ago. You seemed quite pleased about it.
MYCETES: I did?
LORDS: You did.
MYCETES: Oh. Well, I guess we’re good then.
(they exit, except for Cosroe and a Lord)
COSROE: Boy, I just can’t wait to be king. How is my treasonous plot going, anyway, Lord Megaphone?
MEGAPHONE: Oh, Lord C-3PO is on his way now with a crown to name you emperor of Persia right now, your highness.
COSROE: With a crown?
MEGAPHONE: Yes, sir.
COSROE: But my brother was wearing the crown. Just now.
MEGAPHONE: This is a different crown, your highness.
COSROE: Oh. And that still counts?
MEGAPHONE: Apparently, sir.
COSROE: Well, that’s convenient.
(enter C-3PO, with cardboard crown from Burger King)
C-3PO: Your highness, with this crown, we make you king of Persia!
COSROE: Great! So…now what?
C-3PO: You must now defeat your brother in battle!
COSROE: But you just said that I’m king now.
COSROE: So can’t I just, like, have him executed for crimes against the state or something?
MEGAPHONE: But he’s king too, sir!
COSROE: He is?
MEGAPHONE: Yes, sir.
COSROE: …so, humor me: in what way exactly am I a king right now?
C-3PO: You have a crown, sir!
READER: What the hell?
COSROE: OK, whatever. Let’s just go team up with Lord Thermometer and Tamburlaine and kill my brother. Persian politics is making my head hurt.
(enter Tamburlaine, occasionally making random stabbing motions in the air, and Thermometer)
TAMBURLAINE: I’m glad you decided to join me, Thermometer.
THERMOMETER: Well, you had several hundred thousand soldiers, and pointy swords and lances and arrows and a lot of other things that could kill me. And Mycetes just gave me this jelly donut. So. It wasn’t that hard a choice.
TAMBURLAINE: In any case, I’m glad you’re here. There’s been a distinct lack of people telling me how great I am around here lately. I’m sure you can help fix that.
TAMBURLAINE: I said, I’m sure you can help fix that.
THERMOMETER: Oh, um… *cough* Like Hermes’ wingéd foot, does my lord trample over the farmland of innocent civilians…like the shining rays of the moon does his nose gleam in the candlelight…like the ring of Hephaestus’ mighty hammer do his snores resound through the night…
TAMBURLAINE: OK, I’m good.
(enter Zenocrate, led by a few Randos)
RANDO: My lord, we captured this Egyptian princess passing through our lands!
TAMBURLAINE: Really? Why?
ANOTHER RANDO: ….she’s hot?
TAMBURLAINE: Good call.
ZENOCRATE: You miserable wretch! I’m engaged to the King of Arabia, whose name I have forgotten and who I’ve never seen before in my life, but we are very much in love! I will never marry you!
TAMBURLAINE: Huh? Who said anything about marrying you?
ZENOCRATE: Barbarian! Take all my gold, but leave me at least my honor!
TAMBURLAINE: I was just going to ask if you needed some directions, or, like, someone to help you carry all that gold…
ZENOCRATE: Lowly cur! Keep me here as long as you like, I’ll never give in to your rugged good looks and dashing charm!
TAMBURLAINE: Look, I haven’t stabbed anyone for about five minutes, so I’m going to go do that for a while, all right? You just…stay here, and we’ll figure this out later.
READER: Wait, I thought ‘puissant’ was a compliment.
MARLOWE: Maybe, but doesn’t it just sound so obscene? Try saying it out loud. ‘Puissant!!’ Sounds like an insult to me.
(Cosroe, Megaphone and C-3PO join with Tamburlaine, Thermometer, Bank Teller and Sinecosine, who I have not yet mentioned but were hanging around in the background. We skip to their battle with Mycetes, which goes predictably.)
(enter Mycetes, panicked)
MYCETES: Oh, shit! My brother has betrayed me! Who could’ve ever seen this coming?!?!
MYCETES: I know! I’ll bury my crown! Then the enemy won’t be able to recognize me, and I can escape! No one will know my secret identity! It’s genius!
READER: Who do you take your disguise advice from, Superman? I think your brother will still recognize you without a crown.
TAMBURLAINE: Hey, why are you burying that crown?
MYCETES: Because I am Mycetes, the king of Persia!
COSROE (from offstage): YOU. ARE. A. MORON.
TAMBURLAINE: Ha! I could stab you and take your crown right now and end this battle. But that would involve a lot less dead people. So I’m going to run off and kill some more of your men before I come back and kill you, OK? Stay here!
(He prances off.)
MYCETES: OK! Nice to meet you!
(Mycetes, to the shock of all, is killed. Cosroe is king for all of about ten minutes before sticking a target on his back that says “PLEASE STAB ME HERE, TAMBURLAINE” and walking away veeeerrryyy slowly)
READER: Apparently, stupidity runs in the family after all.
(Now king of Persia, Tamburlaine marches west from Persepolis with Thermometer, Sinecosine and Bank Teller. They encounter Bajazeth, with several more Lords)
BAJAZETH: Halt, mighty Tamburlaine! You dare to threaten my lands?! I, Bajazeth, Turkish king of Greece, and my subordinate kings of Barbary, will not stand for your impudence!
TAMBURLAINE: Wait, isn’t Barbary the north coast of Africa?
TAMBURLAINE: And you’re a Turkish king of Greece?
TAMBURLAINE: Putting aside the fact that you are the most inefficient empire builder ever…what the hell are you all doing in Iraq?
MARLOWE: Geography was never my strong suit.
READER: What is your strong suit, exactly?
MARLOWE: People stabbing other people!
(Tamburlaine’s Lords stab Bajazeth’s Lords)
TAMBURLAINE: I win. I get to use you as a footstool now. It’s in the rulebook.
(Enter Zenocrate, dressed as Patty Hearst, and a Rando)
ZENOCRATE: Oh, random servant! Isn’t Tamburlaine the most wonderful person ever? His snaggletooth dangles like the sheath of mighty Mars! His demeanor – as dry and featureless as the Aral Sea! And who could match his wit, as empty as the great pit of Tartarus?
RANDO: He’s a keeper, all right.
(Enter Tamburlaine, leading Bajazeth and his wife Zabina by leash and collar.)
TAMBURLAINE: I got you a present, my dear! Look! It’s a washed-up former emperor’s wife!
ZENOCRATE: Oh Tamby! It’s just what I always wanted! Even the right color, too!
ZABINA: Up yours, lady.
ZENOCRATE: Hmm, a feisty one. We’ll have to break her in, won’t we, Tamby?
ZABINA: Try something, bitch.
ZENOCRATE: What did you call me?!
ZABINA: You heard me! Or did your husband Sultan McStabby over here accidentally puncture your eardrums during one of his ‘special times?’
(A completely unnecessary and gratuitous cat-fight ensues)
MARLOWE: Audiences love girl-on-girl action!
READER: I thought in your time the girls were all played by young boys.
MARLOWE: They also love young-boy-on-young-boy action!
READER: Let’s move on, please.
READER: OK, so we’ve now seen approximately 71 different kings and lords appear and immediately get killed/imprisoned by Tamburlaine, and heard about 145 different monologues about how impetuous he is. Any chance we can shake things up towards the end here?
SULTAN OF EGYPT: Yo!
SULTAN: I want my daughter back, and I’m willing to go to any lengths to do so! Seriously! I refuse to wait another instant! I’m marching off to meet Tamburlaine RIGHT NOW! Now excuse me, while I completely disappear for an entire act.
(He does. Some unimportant shit happens. Skip ahead to the climax.)
(Enter Tamburlaine, Thermometer, Sinecosine, Bank Teller)
TAMBURLAINE: We’ve been laying siege to Zenocrate’s home city of Damascus for months now! Her friends and countrymen inside are slowly and painfully dying! I can’t figure out why she’s mad at me!
READER: Does that Persian crown exude some sort of stupid gas?
TAMBURLAINE: Come, Sinecosine, while we’re waiting for the plot to continue, tell me how great I am for a while.
SINECOSINE: My lord, not even Jove himself could endure such wild bestial romps as thou partake in every evening! And not even his mighty thunderbolts instill such fear as the spittle that constantly flies from thy mouth! Great Tamburlaine, your stabbing fits would solve even the myriad problems of Jove’s mighty dysfunctional family!
READER: Wait, wasn’t the real Tamburlaine Muslim? Why the hell do these people keep talking about Greek and Roman gods all the time?
MARLOWE: World religions are not my strong suit either.
(enter four beautiful Virgins)
VIRGINS: The Governor of Damascus sends us, the four most beautiful women in the city, as a gift, in return for which we humbly request that you lift this most horrible siege!
(Tamburlaine stabs all four Virgins)
MARLOWE: There we go!
BANK TELLER: WHAT THE HELL
SINECOSINE: Dude, they were hot!
THERMOMETER: Just because you’re basically married, don’t ruin it for the rest of us!
TAMBURLAINE: Sorry. I tend to stab people when THEY GET ON MY NERVES.
LORDS: Carry on.
(Exit all. Enter Zenocrate, dragging Bajazeth and Zabina in a cage.)
ZENOCRATE: All right, now be good little prisoners while Mommy goes and weeps for her country for a few hours.
(She exits, sobbing)
BAJAZETH: Look, dear, I have a plan to escape this onerous captivity. But I’m going to warn you, it may be a little disturbing.
ZABINA: What?! Who cares! What is it, tell me!!
(Bajazeth bashes his head against the bars of the cage until he dies. Seriously, he does this. Zabina stands in shocked silence for a minute until…)
ZABINA: You’re a freaking genius! How did I not think of that?
(Zabina bashes her head against the bars of the cage until she dies.)
READER: WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE.
(Enter Zenocrate, who witnesses the blood-filled scene.)
ZENOCRATE: Oh, Tamby! The slaves have gone and made a mess again.
(Sounds of battle off-stage. Enter the King of Arabia, bloodied.)
KING OF ARABIA: Oh, my dear Zenocrate! Your father and I tried one last desperate charge to break the siege and defeat the vile Tamburlaine, but I could not overcome his stabbing prowess. My wounds are fatal, but I rejoice that I have been granted the delight of seeing your wondrous face one last time…
ZENOCRATE: Who are you again?
(He dies. Enter Tamburlaine with the Lords, leading the Sultan captive.)
TAMBURLAINE: Hey sweetie, the darnedest thing just happened.
SULTAN: Oh my dear Zenocrate, pity your father! For now that I am the prisoner of the cruel Tamburlaine, I am sure that I face a most painful death, or some yet more torturous fate!
TAMBURLAINE: Dude, chill out. I’m not going to stab my future father-in-law.
TAMBURLAINE: I have SOME scruples.
SULTAN: I was completely wrong about you Tamburlaine! Please, take my daughter in marriage! I give you my complete blessing!
TAMBURLAINE: Seriously? I still kidnapped your daughter for months. And killed those four virgins. And murdered like thousands more of your subjects. And I still have the random urge to stab people a lot.
(Tamburlaine stabs Thermometer)
THERMOMETER: OW, WHAT THE FUCK, TAMBURLAINE?!
SULTAN: Well, those were all clearly minor slips in character. I see now that you are a great man!
READER: So, what, I’m supposed to take from this that I can kill pretty much everyone I want, and all the power and women in the world will be mine? No divine retribution, no tragic flaw, no nothing? I can get away scot-free?
MARLOWE: Yep, pretty much!
(The Reader stabs Marlowe)