Tamburlaine (TAM-bur-layn), the magniloquent Scythian shepherd who, becoming the ruler of vast lands in Africa and the Middle East, calls himself “the Scourge of God.” Absolutely ruthless, he kills the defenseless women and children in conquered cities and stabs his own son when he finds him gambling during an important battle. He is pre-eminently theatrical, delighting in triumphal pageants and in such spectacular effects as changing the color of his tents from white to red to black while he waits outside a city for its surrender or its challenge. This dramatic instinct inspires the imprisonment of Emperor Bajazeth in a cage and the harnessing of four defeated rulers to Tamburlaine’s chariot. Invulnerable to injury from men, Tamburlaine wages a strong battle against death and meets it in characteristic theatrical fashion when he has himself carried by his servants and friends to the head of his army.
Zenocrate (zeh-NO-kruh-tee), his wife and the daughter of the soldan of Egypt. Although she is enraged when Tamburlaine captures her, she is quickly enthralled by his grand ambition and proudly wears her crown. She attempts on occasion to assuage her husband’s cruelty by pleading for the life of her father and urging tolerance for the weakness of their son, Calyphas.
Bajazeth (BA-ja-zehth), the proud emperor of the Turks. Defeated by Tamburlaine in spite of his confidence in his own power, he is drawn about in a cage, like a beast, until he submits to his despair and dashes his brains out against the bars of his cage.
Zabina (za-BI-na), the arrogant wife of Bajazeth. She scorns Zenocrate and Tamburlaine even after her capture. She strengthens Bajazeth’s resistance as long as possible, but she also recognizes the hopelessness of their state and kills herself as soon as she discovers her husband’s body.
Mycetes (mi-SEE-teez), the king of Persia, an incompetent ruler. He resents the insults offered by his brother Cosroe, but he is incapable of defending his realm against him.
Cosroe (kos-ROH-ee), Mycetes’ ambitious brother, who criticizes the king’s folly and plots the usurpation of his throne to restore the former glory of his nation. He enlists Tamburlaine’s help to win Mycetes’ crown, but he immediately finds himself deprived of the kingdom by his ally.
Techelles (teh-KEH-leez) and
Usumcasane (ew-suhm-kuh-SA-nee), Asian potentates and Tamburlaine’s generals, who are rewarded with large realms.
Theridamas (theh-rih-DA-muhs), a great Persian warrior who becomes one of Tamburlaine’s most valued advisers. He falls in love with Olympia, the virtuous widow of one of Tamburlaine’s conquered enemies, and asks her to marry him. He does not suspect her motives when she pretends to have a magic ointment that will save her from wounds, and he cuts her throat to test its efficacy.
Olympia (oh-LIHM-pee-uh), the widow of the captain of Balsera. Faithful to her husband’s memory, she rejects Theridamas and tricks him into killing her.
Agydas (A-gih-duhs), one of Zenocrate’s attendants. He foresees his mistress’ love for the Scythian shepherd and the inevitability of his own death as punishment for trying to change her mind, and he forestalls his murderers by committing suicide.
Magnetes (mag-NEE-teez), his companion, another Median lord.
Anippe (a-NIH-pee), Zenocrate’s servant, as proud as her master and mistress.
Celebinus (seh-leh-BI-nuhs) and
Amyras (a-MI-ruhs), the bold, self-confident heirs of Tamburlaine and Zenocrate.
Calyphas (KA-lih-fuhs), their brother, a luxury-loving youth, slain by his father, who despises his cowardice.
Callepine (KA-leh-pin), Bajazeth’s son, imprisoned by Tamburlaine. He escapes with the help of his jailer and becomes the leader of the forces opposing Tamburlaine.
Gazellus (gah-ZEH-luhs), and
Uribassa (ew-rih-BA -suh),...
(The entire section is 3,223 words.)