Marlowe, Tamburlaine, and Dramatic Speed

After reading Schiller, what a delight it is to read Marlowe. Especially Tamburlaine. It just moves so fast, especially after reading through a play like Don Carlos where the characters are thinking sooooo much about tooooo many things. They play requires the casting of philosophers rather than actors. But Tamburlaine is nothing like that. Take Zenocrate.s death. Tamburlaine.s queen dies as he marches on one of his endless campaigns. She falls ill; she dies. There is a very brief interlude where we see a catalogue of Callapine.s forces that are assembling to take on Tamburlaine. The next thing you know, Tamburlaine is seen marching out of the town. Behind him the town burns. He has set fire to it as a memorial for Zenocrate.

Two things stand out. The first is of course the scale on which Tamburlaine acts. To burn the town as a memorial to his wife is something more than human. It is like Xerxes lashing the Hellespont. The second which stands out is the incredible dramatic economy of the scene. A lot of information about Tamburlaine is conveyed without the need of dialogue. She dies; he decamps and leaves town. And oh, what.s that–is it the whole town is burning in the background? Oh my! It reminds me of a scene from the old Schwarzenegger movie Conan. Conan enters the cave. There.s a pack of mean looking wolves that.s followed him there. Now you could have Conan fight the wolves or outwit them or trap them. But no, none of that. It is all too time consuming. All we see in the next scene is Conan exiting the cave with a new wolfskin jacket. Very well done! always said, and I.ll say it again, that many plays are too long. In this day and age of texting and twitter, people.s attention spans are looking for quick solutions. There.s lots of devices–such as flashing forward to the outcome–which can do this. It would be nice to see them put to better use.

Not to pick on Schiller (whom I enjoy), but the difference between him and Marlowe is like the difference between a studio band and a road band. A good road band is a great crowd pleaser. A studio band, well, is good in the studio. They get the sound just perfect. But on the open road, there.s too many variables beyond their control for them to truly shine. Gould comes to mind. Or Burzum. A lot of bands just starting out are also like this. They spend too much time in the studio. They may be technical virtuosos, but when they hit the road, they don.t put on an entertaining show. A lot of their effects or that perfect pedal sound is lost in the noise. Schiller is like the consummate studio musician. Marlowe is more like Springsteen or Motorhead. They may not be the most technical. But they sure put on a damn fine show.

Speed is good. I value highly playwrights who are able to go from scene to scene at an hundred miles an hour. Let.s call this the veni, vidi, vici principle of theatre. Caesar gets a lot of mileage out those three words.