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Salome : a tragedy in one act by Oscar Wilde
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Salome : a tragedy in one act (original 1893; edition 1894)

by Oscar Wilde, Alfred Bruce Douglas (Translator), Aubrey Beardsley (Illustrator)

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Member:OscarWildesLibrary
Title:Salome : a tragedy in one act
Authors:Oscar Wilde
Other authors:Alfred Bruce Douglas (Translator), Aubrey Beardsley (Illustrator)
Info:London : Boston : Elkin Mathews & John Lane ; Copeland & Day, 1894.
Collections:Wilde's own works, Your library
Rating:
Tags:Drama, Plays

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Salomé by Oscar Wilde (1893)

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» See also 53 mentions

English (9)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (11)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Wilde's writing is the center piece of this play about Herod, Salome, and John the Baptist. A fine, quick read, with a very fine introduction by Holbrook Jackson (in this 1943 Heritage Press edition). ( )
  Osbaldistone | Dec 12, 2013 |
Wilde’s short one-act play and take on the Biblical story of the death of John the Baptist (Mark 6:17-29, Matthew 14:3-11). The tale is fairly simple. John has condemned King Herod for marrying Herodias, his brother’s wife, angering Herodias. Herod also lusts after her daughter Salome, and after she dances her famous dance of the seven veils for him, he grants her one wish. Herodias then convinces her to use it on asking for John’s head on a platter.

In Wilde’s spin, there are additional emotions in play. A soldier lusts after Salome and commits suicide when he sees her lusting in turn after John (Iokanaan in the play) for the whiteness of his body, the blackness of his hair, and the redness of his mouth. John’s rejection of Salome provides her with additional motivation for having him killed. Herod hears her proclamation of love unrequited and orders her killed at the end as well.

This edition is adorned with twenty full-page illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley, some of which I saw at a recent art exhibition of the 19th century Aesthetic Movement in the San Francisco Legion of Honor. Beardsley’s self-proclaimed goal was to be grotesque, and that certainly comes across in his highly stylized, often bizarre drawings. Not exactly my favorite type of art, but it does add interest.

Despite the sex, violence, and occasional jab at religion, the play seems pretty innocuous by today’s standards, but it was controversial in its day. Wilde reacted by commenting that it was a mirror in which everyone could see himself: the artist, art; the dull, dullness; the vulgar, vulgarity. Perhaps that was a clever way to deflect criticism, for I can hardly want to say I saw mediocrity with this in mind. Maybe I’ll just say I saw simplicity.

Quotes:
On God:
“The Nubian: The gods of my country are very fond of blood. Twice in the year we sacrifice to them young men and maidens: fifty young men and a hundred maidens. But I am afraid that we never give them quite enough, for they are very harsh to us.
The Cappadocian: In my country there are no gods left. The Romans have driven them out. There are some who say that they have hidden themselves in the mountains, but I do not believe it. Three nights I have been on the mountains seeking them everywhere. I did not find them, and at last I called them by their names, and they did not come. I think they are dead.
First Soldier: The Jews worship a God that one cannot see.”

On rejection:
“What shall I do now, Iokanaan? Neither the floods nor the great waters can quench my passion. I was a princess, and thou didst scorn me. I was a virgin, and thou didst take my virginity from me. I was chaste, and thou didst fill my veins with fire…Ah! ah! wherefore didst thou not look at me? If thou hadst looked at me thou hadst loved me. Well I know that thou wouldst have loved me, and the mystery of Love is greater than the mystery of Death.” ( )
  gbill | Apr 15, 2012 |
Classic retelling of the story of The daughter of Herod and her wish of the Head of John the Baptist for dancing the Dance of the Seven Veils. ( )
  BooksForDinner | Oct 3, 2011 |
Salome is my second-favorite play by Oscar Wilde, and it's a world apart from his other dramas. Recreating the death of John the Baptist, it's moody and fantastical, a far cry from the whimsy of The Importance of Being Earnest or even the melodrama of A Woman of No Importance. But it's easy to get swept up in this strange other world, full of people talking about the beauty of the moon and prophets declaring doom and young women who captivate everyone who sees them. Like so many dramas, I want to see it performed: done right, it would be utterly captivating.

The real star of my edition, though, is Aubrey Beardsley's lavish illustrations. I had read Wilde's Salome before, but I had never seen it paired with the illustrations. Beardsley's illustrations are strikingly grotesque, especially his female figures-- though his male ones do not fair much better. The women's faces are harsh and unfriendly. The men's genitalia are small and shriveled yet projecting. Why, in the illustrations for a play about the seductive power of an intensely attractive woman, is Salome herself depicted so revoltingly? This is the question that the illustrations provoked in me this time around.

One of my favorite moments in John Berger's Ways of Seeing where he is discussing the depiction of female nudity in art. In commenting on the painting Vanity by Hans Memling in the 15th century, he says, "You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, you put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting Vanity, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure." A strategy often used in art (in its most general sense) is to depict something ostensibly improper-- female nudity in this case-- and condemn the source of it even though the viewer is intended to take pleasure in it. I think you see this in movies a lot: many of the female characters in Mean Girls are depicted as shallow and obsessed with their appearances and condemned for this, yet the viewer still gets to watch them in short skirts and tight shirts. (Or you see it in comic books. When Supergirl is brainwashed by Darkseid in Jeph Loeb's excruciating Superman Batman: Supergirl, she dons this dominatrix-type outfit that really shows off her butt in tight leather pants. At the same time the viewer is repulsed by Darkseid's evil, he (obviously the viewer is a he) also gets to ogle Supergirl. Princess Leia's metal bikini might be a more mainstream example.)

But in Salome-- a story that definitely villainizes the title character for using her sexuality to get what she wants-- there is nothing like this. Her breasts bulge through her outfit in many of the pictures, but they are not alluring. At what should be her most attractive moment, the Dance of the Seven Veils, her face scowls and her body contorts unnaturally as a disgusting imp-figure plays fiercely in the corner. Her breasts once again protrude. Also grotesque are all the pictures where Salome interacts with the decapitated head of Iokanaan. The rest of Herod's court fares even worse.

This visual depiction, however, is consistent with the text, which displays the court of Herod as a place of sexual and moral grotesqueness. Herod breaks his solemn word for the sake of a dance, inviting condemnation from Iokanaan, who is decapitated for his pleasure. For the people here to be attractive-- and especially for the Dance of the Seven Veils to be genuinely seductive to the reader-- would have been morally hypocritical, as Berger identifies. How can we condemn Salome for her dance if we take pleasure in it?

What's really interesting, though, is that it's unlikely the dance would have been depicted this way in any other medium. The introduction to my edition says that Sarah Bernhardt would have played Salome; I doubt that this famous beauty would have been rendered unattractive, and I especially doubt that the Dance of the Seven Veils would have been anything other than captivating. In some ways, this renders Beardsley's illustrations for Salome more faithful to the meaning of Wilde's text than any performance could have been, even if it could never actually appear on stage this way.
3 vote Stevil2001 | Dec 20, 2010 |
I suppose its actually better than this old, twentieth century, South Pacific native could ever appreciate. If it was, indeed, written by Oscar Wilde, it is so different from his Victorian English comedic dramas that I couldn't recognize any threads of sisterhood to them. I love those and I don't love this. ( )
  gmillar | Dec 20, 2008 |
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» Add other authors (58 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wilde, Oscarprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Angelo, ValentiIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Arbasino, AlbertoForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beardsley, AubreyIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Derain, Andresecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Douglas, Lord AlfredTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holland, VyvyanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, FrankIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Porzio, DomenicoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ross, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valenti, AngeloIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vassos, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Scene. A great terrace in the Palace of Herod, set above the banqueting-hall. Some soldiers are leaning over the balcony. To the right there is a gigantic staircase, to the left, at the back, an old cistern surrounded by a wall of green broze. The moon is shining very brightly.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486218309, Paperback)

Lord Alfred Douglas' translation of Wilde's great play — originally written in French — with all well-known Beardsley illustrations, including the front and back cover designs, the title and List of Illustrations page decorations, the original cul de lampe, as well as three suppressed plates. Features an introduction by Robert Ross.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:39 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

After Salome dances for the king, she asks for the head of John the Baptist for her mother.

(summary from another edition)

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