Salome (play)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Salome (or in French: Salomé ) is a tragedy by Oscar Wilde.

The original 1891 version of the play was in French. Three years later an English translation was published. The play tells in one act the Biblical story of Salome, step-daughter of the tetrarch Herod Antipas, who, to her step-father's dismay but to the delight of her mother Herodias, requests the head of Jokanaan (John the Baptist) on a silver platter as reward for dancing the Dance of the Seven Veils.

The play premiered in Paris in 1896, under the French name Salomé. In Wilde's play, Salome takes a perverse fancy for John the Baptist, and causes him to be executed when John spurns her affections. In the finale, Salome takes up John's severed head and kisses it. Because British law forbade the depiction of Biblical characters on stage, Wilde wrote the play originally in French, and then produced an English translation (titled Salome). Wilde's French was as close to perfect as is possible for a nonnative French speaker; nevertheless, he showed it to at least two esteemed French writers who were his acquaintances, one of whom said to correct the idiom would be to destroy the unique harmonies of the Wildean French. The play was also proofread by Marcel Schwob. In the English version Alfred Bruce Douglas (Bosie) is indicated as translator.

Versions and premieres

Rehearsals for the play's debut on the London stage began in 1892, but were halted when the Lord Chamberlain's licensor of plays banned Salomé on the basis that it was illegal to depict Biblical characters on the stage. The play was first published in French in 1893, and an English translation, with illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley, in 1894. On the Dedication page, Wilde indicated that his lover Lord Alfred Douglas was the translator. In fact, Wilde and Douglas had quarrelled over the latter's translation of the text which had been nothing short of disastrous given his poor mastery of French — though Douglas claimed that the errors were really in Wilde's original play. Beardsley and the publisher John Lane got drawn in when they sided with Wilde. In a gesture of reconciliation, Wilde did the work himself but dedicated Douglas as the translator rather than having them sharing their names on the title-page. Douglas compared a dedication to sharing the title-page as "the difference between a tribute of admiration from an artist and a receipt from a tradesman."

The play was eventually premiered in February 1896, while Wilde was in prison, in Paris at the Comédie-Parisienne in a staging by Aurélien Lugné-Poë's theatre group, the Théâtre de l'Œuvr . When asked why he had chosen to write Salomé in French, Wilde cited Maeterlinck as an example of the interesting effect resulting when an author writes in a language not his own.

In June 1906 the play was presented privately with A Florentine Tragedy by the Literary Theatre Society at King's Hall, Covent Garden. The Lord Chamberlain's ban was not lifted for almost forty years; the first public performance of Salomé in England was at the Savoy Theatre on October 5, 1931.

In 1992 the play was performed on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre, under the direction of Robert Allan Ackerman. Sheryl Lee starred as the title role alongside Al Pacino. The play costarred Suzanne Bertish, Esai Morales and Arnold Vosloo.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Salome (play)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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