Study Guide

Salomé Song of Solomon

By Oscar Wilde

Song of Solomon

Take a gander at this piece of writing:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine. Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee. Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee. (Song of Solomon, 1:1-3)

Sound familiar? You might have read it in books of famous poetry, or maybe in a kinda racy wedding ceremony. It's the very beginning of the Song of Solomon, also known as the Songs. You can find it in the Old Testament. Written—some say by King Solomon, hence the name—as a dialogue between a new bride and her groom, it's the inspiration for what are probably the most difficult passages in the play: Salomé's litanies (that is, long series) of compliments and insults to that hunk of hunks, Jokanaan.

The connection is clear right off the bat: "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth" immediately recalls "I will kiss your mouth." The parallels don't end at the beginning, though. Take another look, this time at Chapter 4, Verses 3:

Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks. (Song of Solomon, 4:3)

Now, compare this to a speech of Salomé's:

Thy mouth is like a band of scarlet on a tower of ivory. It is like a pomegranate cut in twain with a knife of ivory. The pomegranate-flowers that blossom in the gardens of Tyre, and are redder than roses, are not so red. (149)

As you can see, some phrases match up almost exactly: "thread of scarlet" and "band of scarlet," "pomegranate temples" and "pomegranate lips." (And pomegranate lips make way more sense—what on earth is a pomegranate temple?!)

The thing is, the entire Song of Solomon is composed of such phrases, but Salomé's speeches are really, really not. Song of Solomon is a dialogue conducted between two partners in lovin'; they are really, really into each other.

Salomé, on the other hand, doesn't have a partner; Jokanaan refuses to respond to her. Instead, she has a kind of internal dialogue—it's sort of like she's got a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. One second she's claiming Jokanaan's body is white "like the lilies of the field," and the next she's saying it's "like a whitened sepulcher full of loathsome things" (47). Whoa, girl. Calm down.

So Salomé's speeches function as a dark (and we mean dark) reflection of the Song of Solomon. They're a document of lust, of unrequited, unholy feelings. It's no wonder, then, that Salomé ends not in marriage, but with an act of creepy, necrophiliac smooching.