One of the most impactful moments in the play is when, after a number of characters spend much time fashioning detailed and meaningful allegories concerning the moon, Herodias dismisses them all, saying “the moon is just the moon, that is all.” I feel that this dismissal of there being a deeper meaning behind the moon’s appearance, while certainly serving as character development for the princess, also serves as a reflection of the opinions of the Aesthes on art as a whole, and perhaps Wilde’s criticism (or support, it can be hard to keep track) of these views. It seems to me that a central battle that is being waged in the background of all of Wilde’s works is whether art exists to be interpreted, or appreciated, and whether those two actions are mutually exclusive.
For many, interpretation of art is not necessary to fully enjoy it, and even the most pretentious of art critics will agree that there are certain attributes of truly great art that lend themselves to surface level enjoyment of the work. Those critics will also likely argue that, while great works of art can provide surface level enjoyment, those works can only be enjoyed to the fullest extent after carefully analyzing and understanding every element of the art. However, this logic assumes that there is a direct correlation between information known about something, and one’s enjoyment in that thing, which is obviously not always true. For instance, one’s enjoyment of a particular music artist can be completely destroyed if they investigated their personal lives, and found that they were a horrible person. Despite the enjoyment being destroyed, many would still argue that it is better to know the truth about said artist, which suggests that increased information on a subject does not necessarily increase one’s enjoyment, something anybody who has ever watched a Marvel movie with a film major undoubtedly already knows.
Focusing back on Wilde, what are his opinions on the topic? Does he believe that art should be enjoyed, but not interpreted? That doesn’t seem to make much sense, given the layered nature of most of his art. However, I believe Wilde would certainly argue that art’s main purpose is to be appreciated, rather than put under a microscope. In the end, I find it hard to nail down exactly what Wilde believes concerning the relationship of appreciation and interpretation in art, though I hope I’ll attain a better understanding of it as the course progresses.