illustration of main character Tamburlaine standing in armor with sword and shield

Tamburlaine the Great

by Christopher Marlowe

Start Free Trial

Explain how the divine rights of king and the chain of being are applied in Tamburlaine the Great? I need a detailed answer with quotes from the play please.  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The divine right of kings is the doctrine which holds that kings are subject to no authority on earth. Instead, their right to rule is derived directly from the will of God, and only God can judge an unfit ruler. Interestingly, however, Asian kings believed that the Mandate of Heaven was dependent on the behavior of the ruler.

Christopher Marlowe's character Tamburlaine certainly conquers all with an insatiable desire for power as he 

Threaten[s] the world with high astounding terms,
And scourg[es] kingdoms with his conquering sword. (Prologue)

He begins his conquests with Persia, overthrowing the king Mycetes and capturing Zenocrate, an Egyptian princess, to whom he declares his love. Before this, Tamburlaine prepares to go into battle, declaring to a challenger,

I hold the Fates bound fast in iron chains,
And with my hand turn Fortune's wheel about....
And Jove himself will stretch his hand from heaven
To ward the blow, and shield me safe from harm (1:1.2.180-181)

Tamburlaine calls upon the gods frequently for divine sanction for his campaigns; for example, after he conquers Persia, one lord praises him, saying, "To be a king is half to be a god." But, Tamburlaine replies,

A god is not so glorious as a king:
I think the pleasure they enjoy in heaven,
Cannot compare with kingly joys in earth (1: 2.5.56-58).

Then, in a later scene, Usumcasane says that when Jove overthrew Saturn, Tamburlaine was motivated to overthrow Persia (1:2.7.12-17). And, in his hubris, Tamburlaine himself declares,

Though Mars Himself, the angry god of arms,
And all the earthly potentates conspire
To dispossess me of this diadem [crown],
Yet will I wear it in despite of them,
As great commander of this eastern world (1: 2.7.58-61)

Always Tamburlaine aspires to greatness in his thirst for power. Much like a divine king, he succeeds as he finds no one who is strong enough to deny him the power he takes.  In fact, there is no divine retribution from Heaven; Tamburlaine is invulnerable to everything but death, swearing that he will even "march against the powers of heaven" and slaughter the gods (2: 5.3.48-50) because he regrets not being able to conquer more. Always Tamburlaine has moved towards his goals undaunted as he feels his divine rights and is not concerned about destiny or circumstances.


See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team