Salomé begins the play chaste, a virgin. She is lusted after—innocently by the young Syrian, creepily by her stepfather, Herod—but she does not lust. But the moment she hears Jokanaan crying out from the cistern, though, something changes. She wants to see him immediately, and she uses her feminine charms to get what she wants.
Salomé's encounter with Jokanaan is totally bizarre-o. For one thing, Jokanaan wants nothing to do with her. His coldness doesn't dampen her lust, though—she just adds a little (okay, a lot) of hatred to the mix.
Though Jokanaan ultimately walks away, she lets him know that she will kiss his mouth…no matter what it takes. She doesn't even listen when the young Syrian begs her to stop and doesn't flinch when he kills himself in horror.
The appearance of Herod and Herodias puts Salomé's desires on the back burner for a while. But Herod's lust gets the better of him—and he begs Salomé to dance for him and promises to give her anything in return.
Salomé's refusal to dance could be taken as a sign of resistance or remorse, an acknowledgment of her strange, desire-fueled actions…or she could just be creeped out that her stepdaddy has the hots for her. Eventually, though, something clicks, and her resistance turns to scheming. When she forces Herod to swear an oath, she is, in a sense, sealing her own fate. She dances.
When Salomé utters those fateful words—"I demand the head of Jokanaan"—she seals her fate. We basically hear an ominous "dum dum dummm."
She cannot and will not change her mind. She puts herself on the path to ruin. Jokanaan has, after all, told her to repent, and, well, at this point repentance seems to be out of the question. Still, it's not the beheading of Jokanaan that destroys her.
Destruction or death wish Stage
Only by kissing Jokanaan's severed head does Salomé ensure her demise. She crosses the boundary that separates ordinary lust (the kind of thing Herod is all too familiar with) with something super-duper-duper-duper creepy and nasty, something that frightens even a man who has killed his brother to marry his wife.
Salomé's lust is her undoing.