Sederi 26 — 2016
Francisco J. Borge López
María José Mora
Linda McJannet, “Timūr’s theatrical journey: Or, when did Tamburlaine become black?” SEDERI 26 (2016): 31–66.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.34136/sederi.2016.2 Download PDF
Reviews of modern productions of Marlowe’s Tamburlaine often note a three-hundred-year hiatus between a recorded performance in 1641, just before the closing of the theatres, and Tyrone Guthrie’s revival at the Old Vic in 1951. While the statement is mostly true with respect to Marlowe’s play, Tamerlane or Timūr Lenk and the Ottoman emperor Bayazid I (Marlowe’s Bajazeth) had important theatrical incarnations in the 1700s before they declined into parody in the 1800s. When Marlowe’s play was revived in the modern era, the main characters reclaimed their dignity, but they also acquired markers of racial, ethnic, or religious otherness that had not been prominent earlier. Timūr’s (and Bayazid’s) varied theatrical representations illustrate the malleability of iconic cultural figures, the sometimes problematic emphasis on ethnic difference in modern theatrical practice, and the challenges and opportunities of cross-racial casting.
Keywords: Christopher Marlowe, dramatic productions; stage history of Tamburlaine, parts I and II; Nicholas Rowe’s Tamerlane, A Tragedy; George Frideric Handel’s Tamerlano; Timūr Lenk; Bayazid I; race; colorblind casting; performing arts.
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