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Unto the BreachMartial Formations, Historical Trauma, and the Early Modern Stage$
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Patricia A. Cahill

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199212057

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199212057.001.0001

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Martial Formations

Martial Formations

Marlowe's Theater of Abstractionin Tamburlaine, Parts One and Two

(p.24) 1 Martial Formations
Unto the Breach

Patricia A. Cahill (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the status of military science in the playhouse, especially the ways in which the invocation of arithmetical discourses, processional marches, and battle formations displace cultural fantasies of individual distinction. The chapter focuses on Marlowe's two‐part Tamburlaine, one of the most popular and most explicitly militaristic plays in the Elizabethan repertory and a play that has long been a touchstone for critical discussions of the emergence of the modern subject. This chapter argues that Tamburlaine's preoccupation with military calculation and the organization of bodies in space produces a spectacle not just of overreaching singularity but also of uniform personhood and mathematically rationalized violence. Ultimately, by pointing to the play's sustained attention to visions of men in the aggregate, this chapter revises the usual reading of Marlowe's text so as to tease out its renderings of modern “massifying” practices, which presage a new world of social abstraction.

Keywords:   Marlowe, Tamburlaine, battle formations, abstraction, military science, spectacle, aggregate, modern subject

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