Posted by: Mish | July 10, 2009


“You do well to dance for me, Salome. And after you have danced, do not forget to ask of me what you like. Anything you ask for I will give you, up to half my kingdom. Have I not taken an oath?”

Oscar Wilde’s tragedy, Salome, tells the Biblical story of tetrarch Herod’s stepdaughter. At Herod’s promise of anything, Salome performs the Dance of the Seven Veils for him. Spurned by the prophet Iokanaan (John the Baptist), she demands his head on a silver platter. Fearful of Iokanaan’s riddles and powers, Herod is reluctant to fulfill Salome’s horrifying request, but word is bond. Salome’s mother, the unbelieving Herodias, is delighted to have the man who “vomited insults upon” her executed. Afterall, Iokanaan had the audacity to call the marriage to her brother-in-law an adulterous abomination.

Salome is one act of religious debate between soldiers, Nazarenes and Jews, and Herod and Herodias. Arguments are made over whether the Messiah has arrived, Iokanaan being a prophet, Caesar, and of course, God. Touched upon are also incest and jealousy, which are the causes for certain actions and outcomes within the play.

With comments to their brightness and beauty, comparisons between Salome and the full moon are frequently stated. Foreshadowing of events is made by Herod, who cries:

“Ah! look at the moon. She has turned red. She has turned red like blood. Ah! the prophet prophesied well. He prophesied that the moon would turn red like blood. Did he not prophesy that? You all heard him. The moon has turned red like blood. Do you not see it?”

One of the interesting things about Salome is that Wilde originally wrote and published it in French before translating it into English in 1894. It was also banned during its London debut in 1892 because of its theatrical depiction of Biblical characters. Salomé finally debuted in Paris in 1896 while Wilde was in prison. It was eventually performed in England in 1931, when the ban was lifted.

Writing a good one act is comparable to writing a good short story: set it up so it makes sense and then finish. In that aspect, Salome is well-written. However, if one doesn’t understand its Biblical allusions, a reader (like myself) may find it a bit confusing. The subject matter wasn’t really my cup of tea. Overall, I found it to be an okay read. If one’s wanting to read a Wilde play, I suggest the comical Lady Windermere’s Fan or An Ideal Husband. The Picture of Dorian Gray is an eerily fantastic piece of fiction that’s in the review queue.

Second and final reading for the GLBT and Drama Challenges, respectively, done.



  1. I loved Picture of Dorian Gray, but I haven’t read anything else by Wilde. The fact that Salone was banned when it made its debut makes it slightly more enticing for me.

  2. For me, the banning was the most interesting thing about the play. Should you be enticed enough, you can read it online here. Since it’s a one act it’s pretty quick reading.

  3. I’m learning TONS about Wilde from you! 🙂

  4. Cool. It’s been educational reading for me too. Can’t remember if I already said this to you and/or Jason, but I recommend Gross Indecency: the Three Trials of Oscar Wilde by Moises Kaufman. It’s a fantastic play, one I would have seen twice if possible, and would like to read. I think you’d like it.

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