Tamburlaine Must Die, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (4 ratings)


London, 1593. A city on edge. Under threat from plague and war, strangers are unwelcome, suspicion is wholesale, severed heads grin from the spikes on Tower Bridge.

Playwright, poet and spy, Christopher Marlowe walks the city's mean streets with just three days to find the murderous Tamburlaine, a killer escaped from the pages of his most violent play. Tamburlaine Must Die is the searing adventure of a man who dares to defy both God and the state and whose murder remains a taunting mystery to the present day.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Crime & mystery
  • ISBN: 9781841956046

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Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.

Review by

Well that's another book read. An odd sort of mix, I have read I think better attempts at elizabethan english. Why? I found myself wondering, use the archaic spelling skry, but say that Walshingham slept with Marlow rather than lay with him.There are always inconsistancies in these things though, and the flouridity of the style seemed most suitable.I have never read any Marlow. Though occasional paraphrases would bring quotes to mind "And this is Hell nor am I out of it" for example, before reading this all I really remembered of him apart from a few titles was a quote that his plays consisted of, "puppets spouting golden verse" Which seemed to sum up more or less my attitude to the cast of this piece. The gaoler for example I thought much to well spoken for his role.this is Marlow inflating the language I suspect we are mean't to presume. Blaize's seemed the most puppet like. His motivation seemed bizzare, How Marlow guessed the identity of this Tamburlaine is beyond me it seemed nothing but the plots demand for some closure.While the scenes from the seamy side of life provided plenty of colour. I found them unlikely if I had the shadow of the gallows hanging over me I doubt very much that I would seek out such distractions let alone that they would succeed. That they did suceed is evident by Marlows foolish blasphemies."There are worse fates than damnation." is a quote from the closing paragraphs. And presumably is meant to suggest that Marlow would prefer his works immortality to his souls" It follows then that a refusal to implicate Raleigh would not be for any ethical reason but for intellectual pride, historical immortality, Something that seems unlikely to me in anyone.

Review by
Opening--------- LONDON 29TH MAY 1593 I have four candles and one evening in which to write this account. Tomorrow I will lodge these papers with my last true friend. If I survive the day, they will light our pipes. But should I not return, he has instructions to secrete this chronicle where it will lie undiscovered for a long span, in the hope that when these pages are found, the age will be different and my words may be judged by honest eyesThe book takes the form of an account written by Marlowe of events leading up to what he believes may be the last day of his life.Style----------I thought it was flamboyant without being over-the-top, the descriptions of events and places were vivid without being wordy, the sex scenes were 'period graphic' and the descriptions of place were excellent.Plot----------Tamburlaine was Marlowe's first solo effort (so far as we know) and the play which made his name. Tamburlaine is amoral and ego driven and Welsh 's Marlowe is the real life equivalent of his fictional hero.Tamburlaine has materialised in London, or at least a series of anti-immigrant blasts have been pinned up around London bearing the signature Tamburlaine. The Privy Council accuse Marlowe of the deed, but it is clear that the Privy Council is riven over this and the accusation is politically motivated. The divisions within the Privy Council make it necessary for the Raleigh faction to find a scapegoat to keep Raleigh's head on his shoulders, and Marlowe fits the bill. Marlowe's payoff for not buying himself some small amount of time by bringing Raleigh down, is the promise of immortality for his work, promised to him by various shady characters, including Dr Dee.Sub-plot-----------Contrived and didn't really work for me, a famous actor, best friend of Marlowe, and failed and much mocked playwright, Thomas Blaize, is acting the part of Tamburlaine, and sending Marlowe clues, Marlowe realises and murders him.The Tragical History of Doctor -----------------------------------------------In this play by Marlowe, Faust chooses earthly over spiritual gains. Welsh cleverly reverses this (I think). For all that her Marlowe is a libertine and a thoroughly amoral character, he chooses an atheists equivalent of spiritual gains - literary immortality - over the chance to cling to earthly existence. The Bookshops in St Paul's----------------------------------Welsh gives a compelling description of the bookshops and bookstalls that clustered around St Paul's Cross Churchyard, I have it on my list of Elizabethan places to see, in the unlikely event that Doctor Who chooses me as his next assistant. It's number two on the list, right after the heads on spikes at Traitors' Gate.Close----------Last night I received a summons to a house in Deptford. There I will be held to accounts, which cannot be squared. Life is frail and I may die today. But Tamburlaine knows no fear. My candles are done, the sky glows red and it looks as if the day is drenched in blood. I finish this account and prepare for battle in the sureness that life is the only prize worth having and the knowledge that there are worse fates than damnation. If these are the last words I write, let them be, A Curse on Man and God. Christopher Marlowe 30th May 1593
Review by

This novella is excellent, full of intrigue, betrayal and full-on entertainment. The writing is concise and descriptive at the same time. As earlier reviews, I would have been happy to read a full novel with more characterisation.

Review by

I'm not at all sure what I think of this one. It was recommended to me as part of a challenge as probably not being my usual thing, but it's not too far off, really. I mean, I've got Bruce Holsinger's <I>A Burnable Book</I> on the go, and that involves Chaucer and Gower... Anyway, I think I might have appreciated this more if I could remember more about Kit Marlowe's death. Pretty much all I could remember was the line from Shakespeare, "a great reckoning in a little room", thought to refer to Marlowe's death (for bonus points, it was said in the rich tones of the man who lectured us on Shakespeare in my first year of university).The style is sort of faux-Elizabethan, and sometimes that slips a bit or rings false, but mostly it was a smooth read. I finished it, though, feeling I'd missed something. I didn't quite get the connection between everything that happened and Marlowe's actual death. Unless it was meant to be just a distraction? Or maybe I'm missing some of the known facts about Marlowe's death that make it all make sense.It's still an interesting read, using its Elizabethan context and the known facts of the situation and weaving a story out of them which includes violence, blasphemy, illicit sex and spying.On the purely aesthetic front, having the entire thing in italics was not a smart decision. It really annoyed me, in fact. Italics are harder to read for a lot of people, me apparently included, not to mention the difficulties someone with a sight impairment could have. Just... <I>why</I>?

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