Dangerous Attraction in Salomé

I found Salomé to be quite different than any of Wilde’s other prose works. The diction of the play had a very hypnotic quality as certain ominous phrases were often repeated (ex: Salomé’s paleness and the depictions of the moon) and as certain object were described in vivid and poetic detail (ex: Salomé’s descriptions of Jokanaan’s appearance). The theme that stood out most to me was that of a dangerous or deadly attraction. This idea is connected to both the Syrian’s and Herod’s lust for Salomé as well as her own infatuation with Jokanaan. In the Syrian’s case, Salomé is considered beautiful because he views her “like a woman who is dead” (552) – being specifically attracted to her “paleness” (553) and the fact that “she is like a woman rising from a tomb” (552). Here, Wilde seems to subvert traditional beauty standards (brightness and vibrant colors, vibrant energy, etc.) by connecting death and decay with attractiveness, which could represent how certain kinds of love or lust are be deadly or even corrupting in some way. Additionally, the page even criticizes the Syrian’s feelings for the princess by saying, “You look at her too much. It is dangerous to look at people in such fashion. Something terrible may happen” (553). This foreboding warning turns out to be prophetic and reinforces the theme of the dangers of attraction as the Syrian “kills himself” after Salomé expresses her lust for Jokanaan (560). This example is eerily repeated when Herod expresses his infatuation with Salomé. Like the page, Herodias warns Herod about looking upon his daughter and stresses the potential dangerousness of his feelings. However, Salomé’s interest in Jokanaan might be even more similar to the Syrian example. She is obsessed with this prophet’s beauty and proclaims that he was “the only man that [she] has loved” (574). Unfortunately for her, Jokanaan wholeheartedly rejects her advances and views her attraction towards him as being unnatural or “accursed” (560). This rejection causes Salomé to resort to ordering his death, so that she can finally “kiss his mouth” and give into her lust (575). Like the Syrian, Salomé’s willingness to give into her feelings is considered to be dangerous and destructive, which causes Herod to execute her at the end of the play. After thinking through this theme, I wonder if Wilde was reflecting upon his own challenges with having homosexual desires when writing this play. In a way, his infatuation with Bosie was unhealthy as most people considered it to be a toxic relationship. Additionally, Wilde seems to suffer a similar fate to the characters of the play. His feelings for Bosie were (wrongly) seen as unnatural and dangerous, which would lead to his demise as he was sent to prison because of this desire.   

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