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SalomeSalome by Oscar Wilde

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Salomé, Salomé, dance for me. I pray thee dance for me. I am sad to-night. Yes, I am passing sad to-night. When I came hither I slipped in blood, which is an evil omen; and I heard, I am sure I heard in the air a beating of wings, a beating of giant wings. I cannot tell what they mean …. I am sad to-night. Therefore dance for me. Dance for me, Salomé, I beseech you. If you dance for me you may ask of me what you will, and I will give it you, even unto the half of my kingdom.”

‘Salome’ is probably the most notorious femme fatale in literature. But through no fault of the historical or biblical accounts mind you; but rather because of Aubrey Beardsley‘s grotesque ink panels that were inspired by Wilde’s play. Like most people, I became aware of the play through these oriental drawings, yet had a devil of a time finding a translated English version (Wilde originally wrote it in French) anywhere on the web. However, thanks to pinkmonkey.com I have finally sated my curiosity. But…

Yes, big but. I’m not sure why, but this one didn’t really come across as particularly good. I’m holding the quality of the translation to blame, as I’m sad to say that this is very different to Wilde’s other plays. To start with, the brilliance of language that we are used to is totally lacking. The dialogue between the characters are monotonous and annoyingly repetitive which is NOT a Wilde trademark. It could possibly be that Wilde’s prose may have been butchered through bad translation. Until I learn to read French fluently, this is what I am hoping it is. If it is not the case and the translation is faithful, then this play exposes a very different side to Wilde.

The ending was also quite abrupt, hurried and somewhat ‘missing’. However what I did like about it was the inclusion of many characters from different religions. I really got a sense of cultural mix and tolerance of difference (even though John the Baptist gets killed because of his heretical beliefs!) King Herod had many people in his court and this is clearly illustrated that. But beauty of language was what I was looking for. Hell, scrap that, I was expecting Art Nouveau decadence, a poisonous, deadly grace. But that wasn’t to be. All that is left is for me to gaze on the ink panels and dream serpentine thoughts of how good it would have been if things had gotten a bit more… ‘Macbeth-ish’. And how it possibly could have done with a few more scenes/acts.

A prose version of ‘Salome’ could have been more interesting interspersed with some of Aubrey Beardsley’s fantastic drawings. Having said that, I’d give anything to see this on stage. The choreography of the ‘seven veils’ would be wonderful to watch!

A generous 3/5 stars.

To read the version I have, please go to: http://pinkmonkey.com/dl/library1/salome…

For more reviews on Oscar Wilde see: ‘House of Pomegranates’  and ‘The Model Millionaire’.

View all my reviews