Hyperlinking Wilde’s Salome (Exercise #7)

For this textual interpretation exercise, please pick a short passage (one sentence to a full speech) from Wilde’s Salome (English or French version), reproduce it here, and start annotating it by inserting hyperlinks to words, ideas, or concepts you find interesting, provocative, or puzzling.  You may also start hyperlinking one of the passages that others have already reproduced below.  Your hyperlinks can link to anything on the internet–something you have written yourself (such as a blog post on this blog or elsewhere), or any content you find online.  The goal is to use the hyperlinks to help illuminate and enrich Oscar Wilde’s Salome, so that readers who click on these links are guided in their understanding of the text.  Don’t forget to add your initials somewhere near your contribution, e.g. in brackets [PDT].

Optional:  If you like, you may add a sentence or two after the hyperlinked Salome passage, explaining what you did and why.


Due: Thursday, 11/15, by the end of the day (let me know if you need more time).

Hint:  You may choose to do Exercise #6 instead of (or in addition to) this exercise.


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 bronze.  Moonlight.

THE YOUNG SYRIAN:  How beautiful is the Princess Salomé to-night!

THE PAGE OF HERODIAS:  Look at the moon! How strange the moon seems! [1] She is like a woman rising from a tomb.  She is like a dead woman.

THE YOUNG SYRIAN:  She has a strange look.  She is like a little princess who wears a yellow veil, and whose feet are of silver.  She is like a princess who has little white doves for feet.  You would fancy she was dancing.

THE PAGE OF HERODIAS:  She is like a woman who is dead.  She moves very slowly.

Noise in the banqueting hall.

[1] Warning: may be disturbing. I was immediately reminded of this scene when we discussed the moon in class. It is a bit anachronistic, but this Surrealist interpretation of the moon conveys the sense of foreboding and madness found in Salomé. Alcibiades.



Page 590, middle of page.

Salomé: Thy hair is horrible. It is covered with mire and dust. It is like a crown of thorns (1) which they have placed on thy forehead. It is like a knot of black serpents writhing round thy neck (2). I love not thy hair… It is thy mouth that I desire, Jokanaan. Thy mouth is like a band of scarlet on a tower of ivory (3, 4). It is like a pomegranate cut with a knife of ivory (5). The pomegranate-flowers that blossom in the garden of Tyre (6), and are redder than roses, are not so red. The red blasts of trumpets, that herald the approach of kings, and make afraid the enemy, are not so red. Thy mouth is redder than the feet of those who treat the wine in the wine-press. Thy mouth is redder than the feet of the doves who haunt the temples and are fed by the priests (7). It is redder than the feet of him who cometh from a forest where he hath slain a lion, and seen gilded tigers (8). Thy mouth is like a branch of coral that fishers have found i the twilight of the sea, the coral that they keep for the kings (9)…! It is like the vermilion that the Moabites find in the Moab, the vermilion that the kings take from them (10). It is like the bow of the King of the Persians, that is painted with vermilion, and is tipped with coral. There is nothing in the world as red as thy mouth…Let me kiss thy mouth.

(1) Allusion to the spiky headdress that Jesus was forced to wear at is crucifixion, whilst the soldiers were mocking him for being a king.
(2) Reminiscent of Medusa, or of snake-charmers.
(3) The color scarlet is associated with licentiousness and adultery; take, for example, the novel “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, in which a scarlet letter is pinned to a woman accused of adultery, as a mark of shame. The Revelations, the color of the Beast and the clothing of the woman who rides on it are said to be scarlet.
(4) The “ivory tower” is an epithet used for the Virgin Mary. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivory_Tower
(5) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomegranate#Symbolism
(6) In Ezekiel 28: 11-17, Satan is referred to as “the King of Tyre”.
(7) The dove is often seen as a representative of the Holy Spirit or the Church. As for their red feet, some claim that it is red as a consequence of the blood spilt by martyrs, who established the foundations of the Universal Church.
(8) I have no idea what this is alluding to. Anybody have an idea?
(9) When Perseus killed Medusa, her blood is said to have flown into the sea and formed serpentine rock formations–i.e. coral.
(10) Vermilion, otherwise known as cinnabar, is a red pigment used in paints etc. In Ezekiel, the Babylonians of Chaldea (supposedly a wicked, immoral group of people) are said to portrayed in vermilion. Moab is the historical name for a strip of land in modern-day Jordan, which had a convoluted (and often antagonistic) relationship with Israel.


(ER) from p. 584

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 it seems 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.

[With my hyperlinks, I did primarily one of three things: 1) link to things that came to mind when seeing the word, such as the link to Brand Nubians for “Nubian” or the picture of Moses with “on the mountains” 2) link to historical info about the people speaking, as in my links to the OED or 3) link to ideas or ways of thinking about the text that came to mind, as with my link to Spivak’s essay “Can the subaltern speak,” the link to Nietzsche’s “Zarathustra” and the link to Milton’s “Lycidas.” I chose this passage because the discussion of a colonized people about their religion really interested me, as colonization generally does.]

– ER

Allusions to “Song of Songs” in Salome’s Attempted Seduction of Yokanaan

Yokanaan, I am amorous of thy body ! Thy body is white like the lilies of a field that the mower hath never mowed.[1] … Neither the roses in the garden of the Queen of Arabia, nor the feet of the

dawn when they light on the leaves, nor the breast of the moon when she lies on the breast of the sea[2]. . . .

Thy hair is like clusters of grapes, like the clusters of black grapes that hang from the vine-trees of Edom in the land of the Edomites.[3] Thy hair is like the cedars of Lebanon, like the great cedars

of Lebanon that give their shade to the lions and to the robbers who would hide themselves by day. [4] The long black nights, the nights when the moon hides her face, when the stars are afraid, are not so black… I love not thy hair. … It is thy mouth that I desire, Yokanaan. Thy mouth is like a thread of scarlet on a tower of ivory.[5] It is like a pomegranate cut with a knife of ivory. [6]The pomegranate-flowers that blossom in the gardens of Tyre, and are redder than roses, are not so red. [7]

 … Let me kiss thy mouth. [8]

 By Voland

[1] (2:1) I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.
[2] (6:10) Who is she that looketh forth as the dawn, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?
[3] (7:8)Thy stature is like to a palm-tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes.
[4] (5:15) His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold; his aspect is like Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. And, (7:4) Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes as the pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim; thy nose is like the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus.
[5] (7:4) Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim: thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus.
[6] (4:3) Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy mouth is comely; thy temples are like a pomegranate split open behind thy veil.
[7] (6:11) I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished and the pomegranates budded.
[8](1:2) Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.
From p. 587:
FIRST SOLDIER: Princess, our lives belong to you, but we cannot do what you have asked of us. And indeed, it is not of us that you should ask this thing.
SALOME: (looking at the YOUNG SYRIAN): Ah!
THE PAGE OF HERODIAS: Oh! What is going to happen? I am sure that some misfortune will happen. (1)
SALOME (going up to the YOUNG SYRIAN): You will do this thing for me, will you not, Narraboth? You will do this thing for me. I have always been kind to you. You will do it for me. I would but look at this strange prophet. Men have talked so much of him. Often have I heard the Tetrarch (2) talk of him. I think the Tetrarch is afraid of him. Are you, even you, also afraid of him, Narraboth? (3)
(1): This repeated phrase, especially in this scene, reminded me of Basil and Henry’s interaction in the beginning of Dorian Gray. Basil clearly feels that something bad will happen if Henry meets Dorian, and yet Henry ignores Basil’s worries, much as the Young Syrian largely ignores the Page’s worries.
(2): When I was reading, I looked up some background information about Herod, the Tetrarch, as I knew very little about the Biblical story.
(3): Salomé’s interaction with the Young Syrian in this scene reminded me very much of the scene in Chapter 3 of Prosper Mérimée’s Carmen when Carmen taunts José and convinces him to let the smugglers past the town gates.

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Filed under Exercises, Week 8 reviews: Wilde's journalism, Wilde's Salome

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