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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

VII. Marlowe and Kyd

§ 3. Tamburlaine the Great

Marlowe’s first original work was the two parts of Tamburlaine the Great, played in 1587 or 1588, and printed in 1590. The grandeur of the style, the gorgeous strutting of Alleyn in the title rôle, the contrast of the piece with the plays which had held the popular stage, gave Tamburlaine a long lease of popularity; so that the Water Poet could truly say that the hero was not so famous in his own Tartary as in England. How strongly it impressed the public mind may be gauged by the number of attacks, some reasonably satirical, others merely spiteful, which came from literary rivals. From this onslaught, directed against what appeared, to classicists (like Jonson) and to “rhyming mother wits,” to be an intolerable breach of all the laws of “decorum,” has sprung the tradition of “bombast” and “brag” which has clung to Marlowe’s literary name—a tradition which is at fault, not because it has no measure of truth, but because it neglects much that is not less true.