Few plays can ever have had so astonishing an impact as Tamburlaine the Great. Written while its author was still at university, it tells the more or less true story of the Scythian shepherd Timur the Lame, who rose by his own unaided efforts to become the monarch of half Asia. We first hear of him from Mycetes, King of Persia, who opens the play with the words
Brother Cosroe, I find myself aggrieved,
Yet insufficient to express the same,
For it requires a great and thundering speech:
Good brother, tell the cause unto my lords;
I know you have a better wit than I.
Mycetes' admission of weakness might, in the hands of another author, have been endearing; in Marlowe …