Salomé is the perfect architype of a femme fatale: a beautiful, mysterious woman with nefarious intentions for the men she attracts. She outwits all of the men in the play, brazenly defying their commands and desires, occasionally to the point of causing their demise. And yet, I cannot help rooting for her as I read the play. She is an intoxicating character. I was tempted to believe that this sympathy was coming from my own modern perspective, but I don’t think that that is the whole picture.
There is a definite feeling of sympathy for Salomé when we first see her in the play. Her very first lines are about the way in which Herod has been looking at her all night. This gaze is implied to be some form of sexual desire, which continues throughout the play. However, unlike conventional femme fatale roles, Salomé is not blamed for Herod’s sexual desires. Instead, Herodias chastises Herod directly, and not her daughter. Herod even admits to his blame late in the play when he says, “It may be that I have loved you too much” and “I have looked at you too much. But I will look at you no more” (601). This is a more open-minded take on the femme fatale, who is usually demonized for her sexuality by men and especially by other women.
However, it is not a completely open-minded take, as Salomé is still criticized by Jokanaan, and still dies in the end. But her death at the end of the play feels to me very abrupt and out of place. Surely, Herod has some desire to kill Salomé, but after the long speeches and fervent arguing that takes place between the trio earlier in the play, the simple command “Kill that woman!” feels rather out of place (605). I’m interested in hearing everyone else’s thoughts on this ending and how it affects your thoughts on the play’s characters.