Thomas Goffe

Thomas Goffe was an Oxford scholar (Christ Church), and according to the title page the play was performed by students of that college, although at almost 3700 lines, it may have been cut for performance.

The first edition was registered and published in 1631.
(Goffe died in 1627)

a synoptic, alphabetical character list


A general, Cherseogles' son, and Isaack's son-in-law, Achmetes agrees to join with Cherseogles and Corcutus to seek a peaceful solution of the imminent war with Baiazet, in the meantime divorcing Isaack's daughter for infidelity. When Baiazet, now emperor, forswears an earlier oath of vengeful enmity, Achmetes agrees to lead the Turkish army against Zemes and the Armenians. He defeats Armenia, and in single combat gives Zemes what he supposes to be a fatal wound, not realizing that Zemes has survived and escaped. Isaack plots against him. At the celebration he recounts the battle. Baiazet responds with a speech of apparent praise, but at the end throws about the general's shoulders the black mantle. At his son's appeal, however, the janissaries rescue him, and carry him off to parade in triumph through Constantinople. He and Baiazet are briefly accorded, but suddenly, without warning, Baiazet turns on him and kills him.


One of Baiezet's seven sons, Achomates shares in the resentment that his youngest brother Corcutus has been made emperor, but when Baiazet takes power instead he is content. Identified as the emperor-in-waiting by his father, he gathers an army to resist Selymus, and then, his own ambitions aroused, resolves to seek the throne by force. Cherseogles persuades him to a midnight rendezvous, where, expecting to meet and kill Selymus, he himself is killed by the bassas.


The Pope receives the fugitive Zemes courteously, but refuses to aid him against his brother. When Baiazet asks him to murder Zemes, however, he assents in order to avoid war with the Turk, and kills his unsuspecting guest with poison.


A mute character, sent by Baiazet to inform Achometes of the people's refusal to accept the emperor's offer to abdicate; the unwelcome message provokes his instant death. When his body is shown to the emperor and the court, it moves Baiazet to choose Selymus, not Achomet, as his successor.


The King of Armenia hates Baiazet, and agrees to help Zemes overthrow his brother. In the battle, however, he is overcome by Achmetes and flees.


A courtier, Asmehemedes accepts gifts from Selymus and agrees to support him against Baiazet. The latter recruits him to murder Mahometes, under cover of friendship; when the deed is done, the emperor's reward is to kill his hired killer.


At the beginning of the play, Baiazet, who longs like Tamburlane for power and glory, has been passed over as Emperor of Turkey, and the people have instead chosen his youngest son, the wise and gentle Corcutus. To avoid his father's threats of war, Corcutus yields the throne to to him. Baiazet learns of his brother Zemes's flight to Armenia, and resolves to destroy this threat on the battlefield with the help of Achmetes. Before meeting Zemes' forces, he orders his sons Trizham and Mahomet to prevent Zemes from escaping after the battle. When the vengeful Isaack tells him that Achmetes has knowingly allowed Zemes to escape, he vows to punish the treachery, and is advised by the bassa to give the general Death's Mantle, which by identifying its recipient as the emperor's enemy authorizes any man to kill him. He stages a celebration, at which he hears but does not believe Achmetes' account of his fight with Zemes. He responds with a speech of praise, but at the end of it gives the general the black mantle. At Caigubus' call, however, the janissaries enter and threaten the emperor with death instead. He pretends to forgive Achmetes, and announces a war against Rome. Mahomet and Trizham try to persuade him to keep the peace, but he orders their death, and personally strangles them with the help of Isaack, Selymus, and Mesithes for their failure to prevent Zemes' escape. Then he stabs Achmetes to death. In his fury, he feels himself abandoned, and threatens to kill himself, but is stopped by the courtiers; yet he feels cursed by what he has done. He gives the province of Amasia to Mahomates (though he is made jealous by the people's affection for this prince), but tells Selymus he is still too young to govern. The Monk's failed assassination attempt makes him realize that power has brought not satisfaction but anxiety, and he resolves to crown Achometes in his stead and retire to a life of quiet satisfaction. When he has Achometes proclaimed, however, the people refuse to accept him. To assuage his fear of his son Mahomates he suborns Asmehemedes to murder him, then murders the murderer in return. Returning to Constantinople, he is ambushed by Selymus and his Tartars, but drives the rebels from the field. He learns that Achomates has revolted on learning that the people prefer his father, and decides on the advice of the bassas to appoint Selymus as his champion rather than risk his own life to punish his favorite's insolence. When the bassas leave with the boy, however, he suspects treachery, a suspicion confirmed when their joint force makes him give up his crown. He rages. Under Haman's care, he meditates on the vagaries of political fortune, until a vision brought by Nemesis of all the victims of his ambition unhinges him, and imagining that he will somehow rise above mortality he dies.


Achmetes' son, Caigubus is warned by his father about the perils of court life, and told to be especially wary of Isaack. When Baiazet throws the black mantle of death on his father he calls the janissaries to help. After his father is murdered by Baiazet he commits suicide before he, too, can be executed by the raging Turk.


The viceroy of Greece, Cherseogles admits that his country has not sufficiently recovered from military defeat at the hands of the Turkish army to mount effective resistance to Turkish rule. At various points, the emperor confides in him, and sends him to stop Selymus' advance from Thrace. After Baiazet is deposed, he goes disguised as common soldier to Selymus, and says that he has persuaded Achomates to come from his camp at midnight, armed but unaccompanied, expecting to confront Selymus in single combat, during which Cherseogles will suddenly join Achomates in the fight. He intends, however, to assist Selymus. To Achomates, subsequently, he proposes the same plan in reverse. Still in disguise, he then persuades the bassas to come to the same place, expecting to surprise Achomates and Cherseogles. All taking the bait, Cherseogles inveigles the bassas into killing both brothers; then, ambition and confusion seizing all of them, the remaining conspirators, including Cherseogles, kill one another.


The youngest of Baiazet's seven sons, Corcutus has reluctantly accepted the people's nomination as emperor, but when he hears of his father's rage, he offers to resign his throne and retreat from the turmoil of politics and war to the serenity of scholarship. His father sends him to govern Ionia, promising that he will succeed as emperor. When he learns that Baiazet has, in fact, preferred Achomates, he decides to return to court, not to resist the decision but to disturb his brother morally. He arrives in time to see Selymus entrusted with the attack on Achometes; dismayed, he is encouraged by his father to suppose that in time the crown will come to him. Though briefly tempted by power, the insensate ambitions of the court finally disgust him, and he resolves again to spend his life in retired scholarship.


Isaack presents the clownish Dwarf to Baiazet as a witness of Selymus' flight; he is then required to remove the body of the unsuccessful assassin, the Monk, and reappears briefly in the aftermath of the battle between Baiazet and Selymus.


Only mentioned. Selymus calls on the Furies (as "three furious twinnes of night") to aid him in overthrowing his father by inhibiting remorse.


At Baiazet's behest, the herald proclaims that Achomates is to succeed his father as emperor.


A bassa, Isaack opens the play by placing a crown on the head of Corcutus, son of Baiazet. Hoping to remain the power behind Corcutus' throne, he agrees with Mustapha to lie low while events unfold, but resolves to seek revenge on Achmetes, both for shifting allegiance from Corcutes to Baiazet and for divorcing Isaack's daughter. He schemes to use Achmetes' failure to kill Zemes by telling Baiazet that Achmetes plotted with Zemes to spare his life. He calls up a tradition whereby an emperor may give someone he hates Death's Mantle, a black robe, which means certain death. When the plot is foiled by the janissaries, he advises Baiazet to summon home the distant garrisons on pretense of going to war, and then to have them enter the city by night to murder Achmetes and his followers. This proves unnecessary; Baiazet murders Achmetes, and Isaack joins the other bassas in encouraging Selymus to escape the court in order to return at the head of a reforming army. On Selymus' return, he joins with the other bassas to depose Baiazet. As Selymus is marching to confront Achomates, Isaack is drawn by Cherseogles to a midnight assignation, at which he and his fellow conspirators kill one another.


These renowned Turkish warriors are faithful to their general, Achmetes, and when Baiazet gives him the black mantle they come to his aid and threaten to kill the emperor, and then carry their hero through the city in triumph. They may be identical with the Soldiers.


Only mentioned. The Olympian deity is identified by Selymus as a model of a son who overthrows his father.


One of Baiezet's seven sons, Mahomates shares with five of the others resentment that his youngest brother Corcutus has been made emperor. After slaying Mohamet, Trizham, and Achmetes Baiazet assigns him to rule Amasia and Manesia. He returns to Constatinople in disguise, and recruits the Monk to assassinate his father; when the attempt fails, at Baiazet's behest he is murdered by his supposed friend, Asmehemedes.


One of Baiezet's seven sons, Mahomet shares with five of the others resentment that his youngest brother Corcutus has been made emperor. His father deputes him, along with his brother Trizham, to prevent Zemes from escaping after their battle. When he tries to dissuade his father from the war against Rome, Baiazet, Selymus, and Isaack strangle him on the pretense that he let Zemes escape.


Mesithes, a bassa, receives Selymus' gifts and offers his allegiance in return, advising the prince to flee the court for a time, then return to overthrow Baiazet. He plots with Isaack and Mustupha, and eventually joins them in forcing Baiazet to abdicate. When Selymus goes to confront Achomates, Mesithes joins the other conspirators at a midnight rendezvous during which, victims of ambition and darkness, they kill the two brothers and each other.


A nameless messenger brings Alexander the news that Zemes has died.


A mute character, this nameless Monk, an agent of Mahometes, tries to assassinate Baiazet by shooting him, but misses, and is slain by Isaack.


A bassa, Mustapha hopes to be a power behind the young Corcutus's throne, but compounds with Isaack to move discreetly in the face of Baiazet's ambitions. He accepts Selymus' gifts and offers support in return. Eventually the plot succeeds and they force Baiazet to abdicate. Accompanying Selymus to war against Achomates, he joins in the midnight assignation in which all the conspirators kill each other.


Nemesis leads onto the stage a visionary parade of all the victims of Baiazet's ambition, as prelude to his death by poison.


Only mentioned. Phoebus is several times invoked as an emblem of passion and ambition.


Only mentioned. Selymus asks the mythic king of the underworld to inspire him to devise uniquely wicked plots.


One of Baiazet's seven sons, Selymus shares with five of the others resentment that his youngest brother Corcutus has been made emperor. When Corcutus resigns the throne to Baiazet, Selymus shifts his antagonism to his father, and undertakes a Machiavellian plot to gain power for himself. At Isaack's suggestion, he wins the support of Mesithes, Mustapha, and Asmehemides by giving them gifts. Although he helps Baiazet murder Mahomet, Trizham, and Achmetes, he is further enraged when his father declines to give him a province to rule because he is too young. He resolves to flee from the court, but to return to overthrow his father. With the support of the Tartarian King, he conquers Thrace. Baiazet sends Cherseogles to rebuke him, and he pretends to be submissive, but actually continues to move on the capitol surreptitiously, and sets an ambush for the emperor outside Constantinople. In the battle, the two come face to face, but Baiazet puts Selymus and his Tartar supporters to flight. Selymus refreshes his army, and is again marching to attack when he learns of Baiazet's wish that he confront Achometes. He again pretends submission, and leaves, followed by the bassas, but almost at once returns with a cheering crowd, demanding that his father abdicate. Emperor now, he moves to confront Achometes, and is beguiled by Cherseogles in disguise to a midnight rendezvous, where the bassas kill him.


Several unnamed soldiers, who may be the same as the Janissaries, accompany Achomates to fight against the emperor. They reappear after the nocturnal bloodbath has carried off Selymus, Achomates, and the bassas; their intent to restore Baiazet is frustrated by his death, and at the end they join in swearing fealty to Solyman, fanning his latent ambitions into flame.


Solyman is Selymus' son; initially deeming himself less worthy than his ambitious father, he is acclaimed at the end as emperor by the soldiers, who vow to protect and sustain him, and he resolves to carry out his father's ambitions by extending Turkish power far into Europe.


Ruler of the lands north and east of the Black Sea, the Tartarian King supports Selymus' ambitions..


One of Baiazet's seven sons, he shares with five of the others resentment that his youngest brother Corcutus has been made emperor. His father deputes him, along with his brother Mahomet, to prevent Zemes from escaping after their battle. Along with Mahomet, he tries to dissuade his father from making war on Rome, but is strangled by Baiazet, Selymus, and Isaack for letting Zemes escape.


Baiazet's younger brother, Zemes is equally ambitious, and resolves to challenge Baiazaet's power. He recruits the King of Armenia as an ally. When they meet Achmetes and the sons of Baiazet in battle, Armenia flees. Zemes and Achmetes fight; Achmetes prevails, and leaves the field believing he has killed the younger man. Zemes survives, however, and goes to Rome to seek help from the Pope. There he is courteously received, but his request for military aid against his brother is denied. His host, in order to avoid war with the Turks, poisons him.