Study Guide

Salomé Quotes

  • Sex

    SALOMÉ I will not stay. I cannot stay. Why does the Tetrarch look at me all the while with his mole's eyes under his shaking eyelids? It is strange that the husband of my mother looks at me like that. I know not what it means. Of a truth I know it too well. (68)

    However innocent Salomé may be, even if she doesn't lust, she still knows what lust looks like.

    SALOMÉ Thou wilt do this thing for me, Narraboth, and to-morrow when I pass in my litter beneath the gateway of the idol-sellers I will let fall for thee a little flower, a little green flower.

    THE YOUNG SYRIAN Princess, I cannot, I cannot.

    SALOMÉ [Smiling.] Thou wilt do this thing for me, Narraboth. Thou knowest that thou wilt do this thing for me. And on the morrow when I shall pass in my litter by the bridge of the idol-buyers, I will look at thee through the muslin veils, I will look at thee, Narraboth, it may be I will smile at thee. Look at me, Narraboth, look at me. Ah! thou knowest that thou wilt do what I ask of thee. Thou knowest it… I know that thou wilt do this thing. (111-114)

    Here, again, we see that Salomé is a skilled temptress whether or not she's chaste.

    JOKANAAN Where is she who saw the images of men painted on the walls, even the images of the Chaldæans painted with colours, and gave herself up unto the lust of her eyes, and sent ambassadors into the land of Chaldæa?

    SALOMÉ It is of my mother that he is speaking.

    THE YOUNG SYRIAN Oh no, Princess.

    SALOME Yes: it is of my mother that he is speaking. (121-4)

    Salomé seems to take a strange pleasure in hearing her mother called a harlot.

    SALOMÉ How wasted he is! He is like a thin ivory statue. He is like an image of silver. I am sure he is chaste, as the moon is. He is like a moonbeam, like a shaft of silver. His flesh must be very cold, cold as ivory… I would look closer at him.

    THE YOUNG SYRIAN No, no, Princess! (130-1)

    Salomé seems to be attracted by Jokanaan's purity; she's turned on by his chastity. The Syrian, in his innocence, seems totally unable to handle anything approximating lust.

    SALOMÉ Speak again! Speak again, Jokanaan, and tell me what I must do.

    JOKANAAN Daughter of Sodom, come not near me! But cover thy face with a veil, and scatter ashes upon thine head, and get thee to the desert, and seek out the Son of Man.

    SALOMÉ Who is he, the Son of Man? Is he as beautiful as thou art, Jokanaan? (137-9)

    Salomé, in her passion, finds a way to sexualize Jokanaan's calls for repentance. The Son of Man, her potential savior, becomes another sexual object.

    SALOMÉ There is nothing in the world so white as thy body. Suffer me to touch thy body.

    JOKANAAN Back! daughter of Babylon! By woman came evil into the world. Speak not to me. I will not listen to thee. I listen but to the voice of the Lord God. (145-146)

    Jokanaan's purity, his disgust at anything sensual, seems to spring from his understanding of Original Sin. He blames women for bringing sin into the world and cannot look past that first, fateful error.

    SALOMÉ It is like the bow of the King of the Persians, that is painted with vermilion, and is tipped with coral. There is nothing in the world so red as thy mouth… Suffer me to kiss thy mouth.

    JOKANAAN Never! daughter of Babylon! Daughter of Sodom! never!

    SALOMÉ I will kiss thy mouth, Jokanaan. I will kiss thy mouth. (149-151)

    Salomé's threat, which, frankly seems a bit childish—what's wrong with one little kiss?—is made terrible and intimidating by its intensity.

    SALOMÉ Oh, how I loved thee! I love thee yet, Jokanaan. I love only thee… I am athirst for thy beauty; I am hungry for thy body; and neither wine nor apples can appease my desire. What shall I do now, Jokanaan? Neither the floods nor the great waters can quench my passion. (375)

    There is something intensely physical about Salomé's desire—she truly hungers for his flesh. Her passion goes beyond simple metaphors.

    SALOMÉ I was a princess, and thou didst scorn me. I was a virgin, and thou didst take my virginity from me. I was chaste, and thou didst fill my veins with fire… Ah! ah! wherefore didst thou not look at me? If thou hadst looked at me thou hadst loved me. Well I know that thou wouldst have loved me, and the mystery of Love is greater than the mystery of Death. (375)

    Though her claim "the mystery of Love is greater than the mystery of Death" may sound romantic, the love Salomé speaks of is not; it is physical and sexual.

    THE VOICE OF SALOMÉ Ah! I have kissed thy mouth, Jokanaan, I have kissed thy mouth. There was a bitter taste on thy lips. Was it the taste of blood?... Nay; but perchance it was the taste of love… They say that love hath a bitter taste. But what matter? what matter? I have kissed thy mouth, Jokanaan, I have kissed thy mouth. (380)

    Salomé, having never known love, is left to puzzle over its true character. She can never know whether she has really tasted it.

  • Death

    THE YOUNG SYRIAN How beautiful is the Princess Salomé to-night!

    THE PAGE OF HERODIAS Look at the moon. How strange the moon seems! She is like a woman rising from a tomb. She is like a dead woman. One might fancy she was looking for dead things.

    THE YOUNG SYRIAN She has a strange look. She is like a little princess who wears a yellow veil, and whose feet are of silver. She is like a princess who has little white doves for feet. One might fancy she was dancing.

    THE PAGE OF HERODIAS She is like a woman who is dead. She moves very slowly. (2-5)

    From the very beginning, death and desire are brought together—here, via the moon.

    THE NUBIAN The gods of my country are very fond of blood. Twice in the year we sacrifice to them young men and maidens: fifty young men and a hundred maidens. But I am afraid that we never give them quite enough, for they are very harsh to us.

    THE CAPPADOCIAN In my country there are no gods left. The Romans have driven them out. There are some who say that they have hidden themselves in the mountains, but I do not believe it. Three nights I have been on the mountains seeking them everywhere. I did not find them, and at last I called them by their names, and they did not come. I think they are dead. (30-35)

    The Nubian's religion, which calls for its followers to sacrifice themselves to the gods, operates in stark contrast to Christianity, in which the Messiah sacrifices himself for the sake of his followers. The Cappadocian's gods are dead—a great upheaval seems to be coming.

    THE CAPPADOCIAN He was not afraid?

    SECOND SOLDIER Oh no! The Tetrarch sent him the ring.

    THE CAPPADOCIAN What ring?

    SECOND SOLDIER The death-ring. So he was not afraid.

    THE CAPPADOCIAN Yet it is a terrible thing to strangle a king.

    FIRST SOLDIER Why? Kings have but one neck, like other folk. (57-62)

    The soldier's glib observation is actually echoed in Jokanaan's prophecies about the "man on the throne" being struck down.

    JOKANAAN Get thee behind me! I hear in the palace the beating of the wings of the angel of death.

    THE YOUNG SYRIAN Princess, I beseech thee to go within.

    JOKANAAN Angel of the Lord God, what dost thou here with thy sword? Whom seekest thou in this palace? The day of him who shall die in a robe of silver has not yet come. (140-2)

    Here we see that Jokanaan 1) fully expects some kind of final judgment and 2) is in contact with the Lord God and his messenger, but 3) is nonetheless surprised to see him in the palace.

    SALOMÉ I am amorous of thy body, Jokanaan! Thy body is white, like the lilies of a field that the mower hath never mowed. Thy body is white like the snows that lie on the mountains of Judæa, and come down into the valleys. The roses in the garden of the Queen of Arabia are not so white as thy body… There is nothing in the world so white as thy body. Suffer me to touch thy body.

    JOKANAAN Back! daughter of Babylon! By woman came evil into the world. Speak not to me. I will not listen to thee. I listen but to the voice of the Lord God.

    SALOMÉ Thy body is hideous. It is like the body of a leper. It is like a plastered wall, where vipers have crawled; like a plastered wall where the scorpions have made their nest. It is like a whited sepulchre, full of loathsome things. It is horrible, thy body is horrible. (145-147)

    Here, again, we see life and death brought into close proximity. The whiteness of Jokanaan's body, which Salomé sees as pure, just as quickly becomes leprous, sepulchral, decaying.

    FIRST SOLDIER We must bear away the body to another place. The Tetrarch does not care to see dead bodies, save the bodies of those whom he himself has slain. (166)

    Herod clearly has some hang ups about death; he wants to maintain the illusion that only he can end life.

    SECOND SOLDIER He slew himself, sire.

    HEROD For what reason? I had made him captain of my guard!

    SECOND SOLDIER We do not know, sire. But with his own hand he slew himself.
    […]

    HEROD […] It is ridiculous to kill one's-self. (180-182, 185)

    Here, again, Herod—the dude with the power over life and death—doesn't understand why anyone would want to end their own; he's used to treating death as a penalty, as a punishment.

    HEROD What is this miracle of the daughter of Jairus?

    FIRST NAZARENE The daughter of Jairus was dead. This Man raised her from the dead.

    HEROD How! He raises people from the dead?

    FIRST NAZARENE Yea, sire; He raiseth the dead.

    HEROD I do not wish Him to do that. I forbid Him to do that. I suffer no man to raise the dead. This Man must be found and told that I forbid Him to raise the dead. Where is this Man at present? (255-259)

    Herod, unable to see the wider ramifications of the Messiah's actions, simply sees it as a challenge to his own power.

    SALOMÉ [Kneeling.] I would that they presently bring me in a silver charger…

    HEROD [Laughing.] In a silver charger? Surely yes, in a silver charger. She is charming, is she not? What is it that thou wouldst have in a silver charger, O sweet and fair Salomé, thou that art fairer than all the daughters of Judæa? What wouldst thou have them bring thee in a silver charger? Tell me. Whatsoever it may be, thou shalt receive it. My treasures belong to thee. What is it that thou wouldst have, Salomé?

    SALOMÉ [Rising.] The head of Jokanaan.

    HERODIAS Ah! that is well said, my daughter. (345-350)

    What initially seems like a childish request—for what could be brought in a silver charger but something small and cute, right?—quickly becomes super-gross. The juxtaposition between the simple, silver tray and the terrible thing it's meant to carry heightens the shock of it all.

    THE VOICE OF SALOMÉ Ah! I have kissed thy mouth, Jokanaan, I have kissed thy mouth. There was a bitter taste on thy lips. Was it the taste of blood?... Nay; but perchance it was the taste of love… They say that love hath a bitter taste. But what matter? what matter? I have kissed thy mouth, Jokanaan, I have kissed thy mouth. (380)

    Here, finally, we see death actually, physically mingled with desire. Blood and love become indistinguishable.

  • Versions of Reality

    FIRST SOLDIER The Jews worship a God that one cannot see.

    THE CAPPADOCIAN I cannot understand that.

    FIRST SOLDIER In fact, they only believe in things that one cannot see.

    THE CAPPADOCIAN That seems to me altogether ridiculous. (32-35)

    Both the Soldier and the Cappadocian seem baffled by Jewish beliefs and the idea of believing without seeing.

    SALOMÉ How good to see the moon! She is like a little piece of money, a little silver flower. She is cold and chaste. I am sure she is a virgin. She has the beauty of a virgin. Yes, she is a virgin. She has never defiled herself. She has never abandoned herself to men, like the other goddesses. (73)

    Just as the young Syrian sees a princess in the moon, Salomé sees a virgin. Based on later comments about her own chastity, it seems that Salomé is doing a bit of projecting—it functions as a sort of mirror.

    SALOMÉ This prophet… is he an old man?

    FIRST SOLDIER No, Princess, he is quite young.

    SECOND SOLDIER One cannot be sure. There are those who say that he is Elias.

    SALOMÉ Who is Elias?

    SECOND SOLDIER A prophet of this country in bygone days, Princess. (88-92)

    Though Jokanaan has the body of a young man, there are those, like the Nazarenes, who believe he is actually much older.

    SALOMÉ Neither the roses of the garden of the Queen of Arabia, the garden of spices of the Queen of Arabia, nor the feet of the dawn when they light on the leaves, nor the breast of the moon when she lies on the breast of the sea… There is nothing in the world so white as thy body. Suffer me to touch thy body.

    JOKANAAN Back! daughter of Babylon! By woman came evil into the world. Speak not to me. I will not listen to thee. I listen but to the voice of the Lord God.

    SALOMÉ Thy body is hideous. It is like the body of a leper. It is like a plastered wall, where vipers have crawled; like a plastered wall where the scorpions have made their nest. It is like a whited sepulchre, full of loathsome things. (145-147)

    Based on the way Salomé's emotions and her descriptions of Jokanaan change so quickly and wildly, it's clear that she has become unhinged; she is seeing something that we cannot.

    HEROD The moon has a strange look to-night. Has she not a strange look? She is like a mad woman, a mad woman who is seeking everywhere for lovers. She is naked too. She is quite naked. The clouds are seeking to clothe her nakedness, but she will not let them. She shows herself naked in the sky. She reels through the clouds like a drunken woman… I am sure she is looking for lovers. Does she not reel like a drunken woman? She is like a mad woman, is she not?

    HERODIAS No; the moon is like the moon, that is all. Let us go within… We have nothing to do here. (173-174)

    Herod and Herodias see two very different things in the moon. Herod, like Salomé and the young Syrian before him, sees something strange about the way it looks. Herodias sees…well, the moon.

    A JEW That cannot be. There is no man who hath seen God since the prophet Elias. He is the last man who saw God face to face. In these days God doth not show Himself. God hideth Himself. Therefore great evils have come upon the land.

    ANOTHER JEW Verily, no man knoweth if Elias the prophet did indeed see God. Peradventure it was but the shadow of God that he saw.

    A THIRD JEW God is at no time hidden. He showeth Himself at all times and in all places. God is in what is evil even as He is in what is good.

    A FOURTH JEW Thou shouldst not say that. It is a very dangerous doctrine. It is a doctrine that cometh from Alexandria, where men teach the philosophy of the Greeks. And the Greeks are Gentiles. They are not even circumcised.

    FIFTH JEW No man can tell how God worketh. His ways are very dark. It may be that the things which we call evil are good, and that the things which we call good are evil. There is no knowledge of anything. We can but bow our heads to His will, for God is very strong. He breaketh in pieces the strong together with the weak, for He regardeth not any man.

    FIRST JEW Thou speakest truly. Verily, God is terrible. He breaketh in pieces the strong and the weak as men break corn in a mortar. But as for this man, he hath never seen God. No man hath seen God since the prophet Elias.

    HERODIAS Make them be silent. They weary me. (219-225)

    The Second Soldier's original characterization of the Jews as "only believing in things they can't see" is a bit of a simplification. They all have different opinions regarding the nature of their God.

    HEROD Even to the half of my kingdom. Thou wilt be passing fair as a queen, Salomé, if it please thee to ask for the half of my kingdom. Will she not be fair as a queen? Ah! it is cold here! There is an icy wind, and I hear… wherefore do I hear in the air this beating of wings? Ah! one might fancy a huge black bird that hovers over the terrace. Why can I not see it, this bird? The beat of its wings is terrible. The breath of the wind of its wings is terrible. It is a chill wind. Nay, but it is not cold, it is hot. I am choking. Pour water on my hands. Give me snow to eat. Loosen my mantle. Quick! quick! loosen my mantle. Nay, but leave it. It is my garland that hurts me, my garland of roses. The flowers are like fire. They have burned my forehead. [He tears the wreath from his head, and throws it on the table.] Ah! I can breathe now. How red those petals are! They are like stains of blood on the cloth. That does not matter. It is not wise to find symbols in everything that one sees. It makes life too full of terrors. It were better to say that stains of blood are as lovely as rose-petals. It were better far to say that… (328)

    Herod's perception of the world changes rapidly, here: he feels a cold wind, his garland of roses burns him—and yet no one else in the court can see it.

    HEROD What is it to me? Ah! look at the moon! She has become red. She has become red as blood. Ah! the prophet prophesied truly. He prophesied that the moon would become as blood. Did he not prophesy it? All of ye heard him prophesying it. And now the moon has become as blood. Do ye not see it?

    HERODIAS Oh, yes, I see it well, and the stars are falling like unripe figs, are they not? and the sun is becoming black like sackcloth of hair, and the kings of the earth are afraid. That at least one can see. The prophet is justified of his words in that at least, for truly the kings of the earth are afraid… Let us go within. You are sick. They will say at Rome that you are mad. Let us go within, I tell you. (337-338)

    Once again, Herod sees while Herodias does not. In this case, though, Herod's thoughts actually conform to Jokanaan's vision, to his prophecies.

    SALOMÉ Ah! wherefore didst thou not look at me, Jokanaan? With the cloak of thine hands, and with the cloak of thy blasphemies thou didst hide thy face. Thou didst put upon thine eyes the covering of him who would see his God. Well, thou hast seen thy God, Jokanaan, but me, me, thou didst never see. If thou hadst seen me thou hadst loved me. I saw thee, and I loved thee. (375)

    As Salomé understands, Jokanaan's world was fundamentally different from her own. Whereas she saw beauty and felt sensations, Jokanaan could only see his God.

  • Sin

    SALOMÉ I will not stay. I cannot stay. Why does the Tetrarch look at me all the while with his mole's eyes under his shaking eyelids? It is strange that the husband of my mother looks at me like that. I know not what it means. Of a truth I know it too well. (68)

    Salomé knows all too well what sinful thoughts her stepfather is contemplating. Bow chicka bow bow.

    JOKANAAN Where is he whose cup of abominations is now full? Where is he, who in a robe of silver shall one day die in the face of all the people? Bid him come forth, that he may hear the voice of him who hath cried in the waste places and in the houses of kings. (121)

    Though Jokanaan's prophecy is cryptic, he makes it clear that a time is coming when the sinful will be punished.

    JOKANAAN Where is she who saw the images of men painted on the walls, even the images of the Chaldæans painted with colours, and gave herself up unto the lust of her eyes, and sent ambassadors into the land of Chaldæa?

    SALOMÉ It is of my mother that he is speaking.

    THE YOUNG SYRIAN Oh no, Princess.

    SALOMÉ Yes: it is of my mother that he is speaking. (121-4)

    Salomé seems to enjoy hearing her sinful, incestuous mother get insulted.

    JOKANAAN Where is she who gave herself unto the Captains of Assyria, who have baldricks on their loins, and crowns of many colours on their heads? Where is she who hath given herself to the young men of the Egyptians, who are clothed in fine linen and hyacinth, whose shields are of gold, whose helmets are of silver, whose bodies are mighty? Go, bid her rise up from the bed of her abominations, from the bed of her incestuousness, that she may hear the words of him who prepareth the way of the Lord, that she may repent her of her iniquities. Though she will not repent, but will stick fast in her abominations, go bid her come, for the fan of the Lord is in His hand.

    SALOMÉ Ah, but he is terrible, he is terrible! (125-126)

    Jokanaan calls for Herodias to repent—and yet, he's pretty positive that she won't pay attention to him.

    SALOMÉ There is nothing the world so white as thy body. Suffer me to touch thy body.

    JOKANAAN Back! daughter of Babylon! By woman came evil into the world. Speak not to me. (145-146)

    Jokanaan blames Eve, the first woman, for bringing sin to the world. His understanding of Original Sin leads him to shut down Salomé and, it seems, all women.

    JOKANAAN Art thou not afraid, daughter of Herodias? Did I not tell thee that I had heard in the palace the beating of the wings of the angel of death, and hath he not come, the angel of death?

    SALOMÉ Suffer me to kiss thy mouth.

    JOKANAAN Daughter of adultery, there is but one who can save thee. It is He of whom I spake. Go seek Him. He is in a boat on the sea of Galilee, and He talketh with His disciples. Kneel down on the shore of the sea, and call unto Him by His name. When He cometh to thee, and to all who call on Him He cometh, bow thyself at His feet and ask of Him the remission of thy sins.

    SALOMÉ Suffer me to kiss thy mouth, Jokanaan. (157-161)

    Jokanaan warns Salomé that she has but one way of saving herself and tells her what she must do. Still, Salomé persists in her seduction.

    HEROD Enough on this subject. I have already given you my answer. I will not deliver him into your hands. He is a holy man. He is a man who has seen God.

    A JEW That cannot be. There is no man who hath seen God since the prophet Elias. He is the last man who saw God face to face. In these days God doth not show Himself. God hideth Himself. Therefore great evils have come upon the land. (218-19)

    According to this Jew, evil and sin have come upon the land because God has not shown himself. It follows that the reemergence of God would vanquish that evil.

    THE VOICE OF JOKANAAN Ah! The wanton one! The harlot! Ah! the daughter of Babylon with her golden eyes and her gilded eyelids! Thus saith the Lord God, Let there come up against her a multitude of men. Let the people take stones and stone her…

    HERODIAS Command him to be silent!

    THE VOICE OF JOKANAAN Let the captains of the hosts pierce her with their swords, let them crush her beneath their shields.

    HERODIAS Nay, but it is infamous.

    THE VOICE OF JOKANAAN It is thus that I will wipe out all wickedness from the earth, and that all women shall learn not to imitate her abominations. (266-270)

    Jokanaan's call to kill the harlot, the daughter of Babylon, is more than an insult to Herodias —it is a call to destroy all sin.

    HEROD Peace! you are always crying out. You cry out like a beast of prey. You must not cry in such fashion. Your voice wearies me. Peace, I tell you!... Salomé, think on what thou art doing. It may be that this man comes from God. He is a holy man. The finger of God has touched him. God has put terrible words into his mouth. In the palace, as in the desert, God is ever with him… It may be that He is, at least. One cannot tell, but it is possible that God is with him and for him. If he die also, peradventure some evil may befall me. Verily, he has said that evil will befall some one on the day whereon he dies. On whom should it fall if it fall not on me? Remember, I slipped in blood when I came hither. Also did I not hear a beating of wings in the air, a beating of vast wings? These are ill omens. And there were other things. I am sure that there were other things, though I saw them not. Thou wouldst not that some evil should befall me, Salomé? Listen to me again. (367)

    Herod is afraid to hurt Jokanaan because he is afraid of the wrath of God. He's a man who has killed dozens of people (including his brother) but seems to understand that to kill a holy man is to commit a super-big sin.

  • Religion

    SECOND SOLDIER The Jews. They are always like that. They are disputing about their religion.

    FIRST SOLDIER Why do they dispute about their religion?

    SECOND SOLDIER I cannot tell. They are always doing it. The Pharisees, for instance, say that there are angels, and the Sadducees declare that angels do not exist.

    FIRST SOLDIER I think it is ridiculous to dispute about such things. (7-10)

    What the Jews see as key theological disputes, the soldiers consider annoying arguments about dumb subjects.

    THE NUBIAN The gods of my country are very fond of blood. Twice in the year we sacrifice to them young men and maidens: fifty young men and a hundred maidens. But I am afraid that we never give them quite enough, for they are very harsh to us.

    THE CAPPADOCIAN In my country there are no gods left. The Romans have driven them out. There are some who say that they have hidden themselves in the mountains, but I do not believe it. Three nights I have been on the mountains seeking them everywhere. I did not find them, and at last I called them by their names, and they did not come. I think they are dead.

    FIRST SOLDIER The Jews worship a God that one cannot see.

    THE CAPPADOCIAN I cannot understand that. (30-36)

    Two thousand years later, we listen to the Cappadocian and Nubian and think, "I can't understand that." The situation is reversed.

    THE VOICE OF JOKANAAN Behold! the Lord hath come. The Son of Man is at hand. The centaurs have hidden themselves in the rivers, and the nymphs have left the rivers, and are lying beneath the leaves in the forests. (74)

    The coming of Jokanaan's Lord represents a drastic change to the religious landscape: his Messiah will not simply coexist along with older religions—it will replace them. The "nymphs and centaurs" have fled like the gods of the Cappadocian's religion.

    JOKANAAN Get thee behind me! I hear in the palace the beating of the wings of the angel of death.

    THE YOUNG SYRIAN Princess, I beseech thee to go within.

    JOKANAAN Angel of the Lord God, what dost thou here with thy sword? Whom seekest thou in this palace? The day of him who shall die in a robe of silver has not yet come. (140-142)

    Jokanaan prophesies a time of judgment, and yet even he is surprised to be visited by the Angel of Death. The time he speaks of is not meant to come quite so soon.

    SALOMÉ Suffer me to kiss thy mouth, Jokanaan.

    JOKANAAN Art thou not afraid, daughter of Herodias? Did I not tell thee that I had heard in the palace the beating of the wings of the angel of death, and hath he not come, the angel of death?

    SALOMÉ Suffer me to kiss thy mouth.

    JOKANAAN Daughter of adultery, there is but one who can save thee. It is He of whom I spake. Go seek Him. He is in a boat on the sea of Galilee, and He talketh with His disciples. Kneel down on the shore of the sea, and call unto Him by His name. When He cometh to thee, and to all who call on Him He cometh, bow thyself at His feet and ask of Him the remission of thy sins. (156-160)

    Jokanaan here is referring to Jesus, specifically the episode in the Gospels where he recruits a group of fishermen—including his future apostle Peter—and tells them they will be "fishers of men." Salomé is given the chance to repent along with them, but, even after the angel of death has visited Herod's palace, she chooses not to listen.

    THE VOICE OF JOKANAAN Behold the time is come! That which I foretold has come to pass. The day that I spake of is at hand.

    HERODIAS Bid him be silent. I will not listen to his voice. This man is forever hurling insults against me.

    HEROD He has said nothing against you. Besides, he is a very great prophet.

    HERODIAS I do not believe in prophets. Can a man tell what will come to pass? No man knows it. Also he is for ever insulting me. But I think you are afraid of him… I know well that you are afraid of him.

    HEROD I am not afraid of him. I am afraid of no man. (211-215)

    Herodias, in her rejection of all prophets, seems to deny any kind of religion. She simply wants to live in the here and now.

    A THIRD JEW God is at no time hidden. He showeth Himself at all times and in all places. God is in what is evil even as He is in what is good.

    A FOURTH JEW Thou shouldst not say that. It is a very dangerous doctrine. It is a doctrine that cometh from Alexandria, where men teach the philosophy of the Greeks. And the Greeks are Gentiles. They are not even circumcised.

    FIFTH JEW No man can tell how God worketh. His ways are very dark. It may be that the things which we call evil are good, and that the things which we call good are evil. There is no knowledge of anything. We can but bow our heads to His will, for God is very strong. He breaketh in pieces the strong together with the weak, for He regardeth not any man.

    FIRST JEW Thou speakest truly. Verily, God is terrible. He breaketh in pieces the strong and the weak as men break corn in a mortar. But as for this man, he hath never seen God. No man hath seen God since the prophet Elias. (221-224)

    Though they cannot agree on any number of theological issues, the general consensus among the Jews is that God is a powerful and mysterious force.

    FIRST NAZARENE He hath come, and everywhere He worketh miracles.

    HERODIAS Ho! ho! miracles! I do not believe in miracles. I have seen too many. [To the Page.] My fan.

    FIRST NAZARENE This Man worketh true miracles. Thus, at a marriage which took place in a little town of Galilee, a town of some importance, He changed water into wine. Certain persons who were present related it to me. Also He healed two lepers that were seated before the Gate of Capernaum simply by touching them.

    SECOND NAZARENE Nay; it was two blind men that He healed at Capernaum.

    FIRST NAZARENE Nay; they were lepers. But He hath healed blind people also, and He was seen on a mountain talking with angels. (244-250)

    In contrast to the Jews, who seem to believe that God is mysterious and well nigh impossible to see, the Nazarenes' Messiah is not only walking the Earth—he is performing miracles which demonstrate his power.

    HEROD Peace! you are always crying out. You cry out like a beast of prey. You must not cry in such fashion. Your voice wearies me. Peace, I tell you!... Salomé, think on what thou art doing. It may be that this man comes from God. He is a holy man. The finger of God has touched him. God has put terrible words into his mouth. In the palace, as in the desert, God is ever with him… It may be that He is, at least. One cannot tell, but it is possible that God is with him and for him. If he die also, peradventure some evil may befall me. Verily, he has said that evil will befall some one on the day whereon he dies. On whom should it fall if it fall not on me? Remember, I slipped in blood when I came hither. Also did I not hear a beating of wings in the air, a beating of vast wings? These are ill omens. And there were other things. I am sure that there were other things, though I saw them not. Thou wouldst not that some evil should befall me, Salomé? Listen to me again. (367)

    Whether or not Herod believes that Jokanaan is a prophet and no matter what he thinks Jokanaan's God might be like, the prospect of angering that God instills fear in him. He's neither an atheist, nor a believer, nor an agnostic—he's more worried than anything else.

    SALOME Ah! wherefore didst thou not look at me, Jokanaan? With the cloak of thine hands, and with the cloak of thy blasphemies thou didst hide thy face. Thou didst put upon thine eyes the covering of him who would see his God. Well, thou hast seen thy God, Jokanaan, but me, me, thou didst never see. If thou hadst seen me thou hadst loved me. I saw thee, and I loved thee. (375)

    In Salomé's opinion, Jokanaan only has eyes for God, as it were, whether or not his beliefs or true or merely a "cloak of blasphemies." He sees God and only God.

  • Transformation

    THE VOICE OF JOKANAAN After me shall come another mightier than I. I am not worthy so much as to unloose the latchet of his shoes. When he cometh the solitary places shall be glad. They shall blossom like the rose. The eyes of the blind shall see the day, and the ears of the deaf shall be opened. The sucking child shall put his hand upon the dragon's lair, he shall lead the lions by their manes. (36)

    According to Jokanaan, the coming of the "man mightier than I," will radically transform the world, changing the nature of both man and animals.

    THE VOICE OF JOKANAAN Behold! the Lord hath come. The Son of Man is at hand. The centaurs have hidden themselves in the rivers, and the nymphs have left the rivers, and are lying beneath the leaves in the forests. (74)

    In the same way, the coming of the Lord will remove pagan influences from the world, destroying—or at least casting out—creatures associated with classical pagan religions.

    SALOMÉ This prophet… is he an old man?

    FIRST SOLDIER No, Princess, he is quite young.

    SECOND SOLDIER One cannot be sure. There are those who say that he is Elias.

    SALOMÉ Who is Elias?

    SECOND SOLDIER A prophet of this country in bygone days, Princess. (88-92)

    According to some—including the Nazarenes—Jokanaan is a reincarnation of the prophet Elias; there aren't a lot of transformations more radical than that.

    SALOMÉ Neither the roses of the garden of the Queen of Arabia, the garden of spices of the Queen of Arabia, nor the feet of the dawn when they light on the leaves, nor the breast of the moon when she lies on the breast of the sea… There is nothing in the world so white as thy body. Suffer me to touch thy body.

    JOKANAAN Back! daughter of Babylon! By woman came evil into the world. Speak not to me. I will not listen to thee. I listen but to the voice of the Lord God.

    SALOMÉ Thy body is hideous. It is like the body of a leper. It is like a plastered wall, where vipers have crawled; like a plastered wall where the scorpions have made their nest. It is like a whited sepulcher, full of loathsome things. It is horrible, thy body is horrible. (145-147)

    Salomé perception of Jokanaan changes swiftly, without warning, and without explanation.

    HEROD Where is Salomé? Where is the Princess? Why did she not return to the banquet as I commanded her? Ah! there she is!

    HERODIAS You must not look at her! You are always looking at her!

    HEROD The moon has a strange look to-night. Has she not a strange look? She is like a mad woman, a mad woman who is seeking everywhere for lovers. She is naked too. She is quite naked. The clouds are seeking to clothe her nakedness, but she will not let them. She shows herself naked in the sky. She reels through the clouds like a drunken woman… I am sure she is looking for lovers. Does she not reel like a drunken woman? She is like a mad woman, is she not?

    HERODIAS No; the moon is like the moon, that is all, Let us go within… We have nothing to do here. (171-173)

    Herodias' claim that "the moon is like the moon," suggests that she believes in only objective interpretations of things. For her, the world is what it is—it doesn't change dramatically.

    FIRST NAZARENE This Man worketh true miracles. Thus, at a marriage which took place in a little town of Galilee, a town of some importance, He changed water into wine. Certain persons who were present related it to me. Also He healed two lepers that were seated before the Gate of Capernaum simply by touching them.

    SECOND NAZARENE Nay; it was two blind men that He healed at Capernaum.

    FIRST NAZARENE Nay; they were lepers. But He hath healed blind people also, and He was seen on a mountain talking with angels. (245-247)

    The Nazarene's Messiah is capable of miraculous transformations both large and small, turning water into wine and healing the blind and leprous.

    HEROD What is this miracle of the daughter of Jairus?

    FIRST NAZARENE The daughter of Jairus was dead. This Man raised her from the dead.

    HEROD How! He raises people from the dead? (255-257)

    Here, though, we learn that the "Man" can perform the ultimate miracle—bringing the dead back to life. Spooky.

    THE VOICE OF JOKANAAN In that day the sun shall become black like sackcloth of hair, and the moon shall become like blood, and the stars of the heaven shall fall upon the earth like unripe figs that fall from the fig-tree, and the kings of the earth shall be afraid. (282-285)

    Here, the transformation which Jokanaan predicts is a true, earth-shattering cataclysm.

    HEROD Nay, but it is not cold, it is hot. I am choking. Pour water on my hands. Give me snow to eat. Loosen my mantle. Quick! quick! loosen my mantle. Nay, but leave it. It is my garland that hurts me, my garland of roses. The flowers are like fire. They have burned my forehead. [He tears the wreath from his head, and throws it on the table.] (328)

    Herod's every perception seems to be in flux. Flowers turn to fire, cold turns to hot—his world is totally unstable.

    HERODIAS What is it to thee if she dance on blood? Thou hast waded deep enough in it…

    HEROD What is it to me? Ah! look at the moon! She has become red. She has become red as blood. Ah! the prophet prophesied truly. He prophesied that the moon would become as blood. Did he not prophesy it? All of ye heard him prophesying it. And now the moon has become as blood. Do ye not see it?

    HERODIAS Oh, yes, I see it well, and the stars are falling like unripe figs, are they not? and the sun is becoming black like sackcloth of hair, and the kings of the earth are afraid. That at least one can see. The prophet is justified of his words in that at least, for truly the kings of the earth are afraid… Let us go within. You are sick. They will say at Rome that you are mad. Let us go within, I tell you. (333-338)

    Here see that transformation can be totally subjective. While Herod sees the terrible disaster Jokanaan predicted, Herodias sees, well, nothing at all.

  • Power

    THE VOICE OF JOKANAAN After me shall come another mightier than I. I am not worthy so much as to unloose the latchet of his shoes. When he cometh the solitary places shall be glad. They shall blossom like the rose. The eyes of the blind shall see the day, and the ears of the deaf shall be opened. The sucking child shall put his hand upon the dragon's lair, he shall lead the lions by their manes. (36)

    Jokanaan prophesies the coming of a man of incredible power. Compared to him, Jokanaan is all bark and no bite.

    THE CAPPADOCIAN He was not afraid?

    SECOND SOLDIER Oh no! The Tetrarch sent him the ring.

    THE CAPPADOCIAN What ring?

    SECOND SOLDIER The death ring. So he was not afraid.

    THE CAPPADOCIAN Yet it is a terrible thing to strangle a king.

    FIRST SOLDIER Why? Kings have but one neck, like other folk. (57-63)

    Even as we here about the terrible power which Herod wields, we also see that that same power isn't permanent—it can be taken away with one twist of the neck.

    FIRST JEW Thou speakest truly. Verily God is terrible. He breaketh in pieces the strong and the weak as a man breaks corn in a mortar. (224)

    The First Jew affirms this principle: compared to God, all men are ultimately powerless.

    THE VOICE OF JOKANAAN Behold the day is at hand, the day of the Lord, and I hear upon the mountains the feet of Him who shall be the Saviour of the world.

    HEROD What does that mean? The Saviour of the world?

    TIGELLINUS It is a title that Cæsar adopts. []

    THE NAZARENE It was not concerning Cæsar that the prophet spake these words, sire.

    HEROD How?—it was not concerning Cæsar?

    FIRST NAZARENE No, my lord.

    HEROD Concerning whom then did he speak?

    FIRST NAZARENE Concerning The Messiah who has come. (231-233, 236-241)

    Here, the power of an earthly ruler is contrasted with that of a deity…and the deity wins out. Though Caesar may claim the title of Saviour, Jokanaan talks of a time when his power will be eclipsed.

    HEROD What is this miracle of the daughter of Jairus?

    FIRST NAZARENE The daughter of Jairus was dead. This Man raised her from the dead.

    HEROD How! He raises people from the dead?

    FIRST NAZARENE Yea, sire; He raiseth the dead.

    HEROD I do not wish Him to do that. I forbid Him to do that. I suffer no man to raise the dead. This Man must be found and told that I forbid Him to raise the dead. Where is this Man at present? (255-259)

    Herod is frightened by the idea that a man can bring the dead back—after all, it was an execution that brought him to power in the first place.

    THE VOICE OF JOKANAAN Ah! The wanton one! The harlot! Ah! the daughter of Babylon with her golden eyes and her gilded eyelids! Thus saith the Lord God, Let there come up against her a multitude of men. Let the people take stones and stone her…

    HERODIAS Command him to be silent!

    THE VOICE OF JOKANAAN Let the captains of the hosts pierce her with their swords, let them crush her beneath their shields.

    HERODIAS Nay, but it is infamous.

    THE VOICE OF JOKANAAN It is thus that I will wipe out all wickedness from the earth, and that all women shall learn not to imitate her abominations. (266-270)

    In order to cleanse the earth of sin, Jokanaan calls for an overwhelming show of force— not something you might expect the man who foresaw the coming of Jesus.

    THE VOICE OF JOKANAAN In that day the sun shall become black like sackcloth of hair, and the moon shall become like blood, and the stars of the heaven shall fall upon the earth like unripe figs that fall from the fig-tree, and the kings of the earth shall be afraid. (282-285)

    On the day that Jokanaan speaks of, he prophesies, "the kings of the earth shall be afraid," for their power will be eclipsed like the sun. Yikes.

    SALOMÉ By what will you swear this thing, Tetrarch?

    HEROD By my life, by my crown, by my gods. Whatsoever thou shalt desire I will give it thee, even to the half of my kingdom, if thou wilt but dance for me. O Salomé, Salomé, dance for me!

    SALOMÉ You have sworn an oath, Tetrarch.

    HEROD I have sworn an oath.

    HERODIAS My daughter, do not dance. (323-325)

    Here, Salomé turns the tables on Herod. In making him swear an oath, she assumes power over her stepfather, the king.

    HEROD And I have never failed of my word. I am not of those who break their oaths. I know not how to lie. I am the slave of my word, and my word is the word of a king. The King of Cappadocia had ever a lying tongue, but he is no true king. He is a coward. Also he owes me money that he will not repay. He has even insulted my ambassadors. He has spoken words that were wounding. But Cæsar will crucify him when he comes to Rome. I know that Cæsar will crucify him. And if he crucify him not, yet will he die, being eaten of worms. The prophet has prophesied it. Well! Wherefore dost thou tarry, Salomé? (333)

    Interestingly enough, Herod admits that he needs the help of Caesar in order to consolidate his power. Insulted by the King of Cappadocia, Herod does nothing—he simply expects the Emperor to take care of business.

    SALOMÉ Well, I still live, but thou art dead, and thy head belongs to me. I can do with it what I will. I can throw it to the dogs and to the birds of the air. That which the dogs leave, the birds of the air shall devour… (375)

    Ultimately, Salomé gains total power over Jokanaan; she has her way with him. For this, she pays the ultimate cost.

  • Fear

    THE CAPPADOCIAN He was not afraid?

    SECOND SOLDIER Oh no! The Tetrarch sent him the ring.

    THE CAPPADOCIAN What ring?

    SECOND SOLDIER The death ring. So he was not afraid.

    THE CAPPADOCIAN Yet it is a terrible thing to strangle a king.

    FIRST SOLDIER Why? Kings have but one neck, like other folk. (57-63)

    It is strange to think that it only takes a ring take away the fear of killing a man—even a king.

    SALOMÉ Suffer me to kiss thy mouth, Jokanaan.

    JOKANAAN Art thou not afraid, daughter of Herodias? Did I not tell thee that I had heard in the palace the beating of the wings of the angel of death, and hath he not come, the angel of death?

    SALOMÉ Suffer me to kiss thy mouth. (156-158)

    In her passion, Salomé loses not only all restraint—she loses even the fear of death.

    SECOND SOLDIER You are right; we must hide the body. The Tetrarch must not see it.

    FIRST SOLDIER The Tetrarch will not come to this place. He never comes on the terrace. He is too much afraid of the prophet.

    [Enter Herod, Herodias, and all the Court.] (168-170)

    Though Herod may hold great power, though he may have locked away the prophet, he still fears him and his fear speaks to the terrifying power of Jokanaan's words.

    THE VOICE OF JOKANAAN Behold the time is come! That which I foretold has come to pass. The day that I spake of is at hand.

    HERODIAS Bid him be silent. I will not listen to his voice. This man is for ever hurling insults against me.

    HEROD He has said nothing against you. Besides, he is a very great prophet.

    HERODIAS I do not believe in prophets. Can a man tell what will come to pass? No man knows it. Also he is for ever insulting me. But I think you are afraid of him… I know well that you are afraid of him.

    HEROD I am not afraid of him. I am afraid of no man. (211-215)

    Every time Herod denies being afraid of Jokanaan, his fear only becomes more apparent.

    FIFTH JEW No man can tell how God worketh. His ways are very dark. It may be that the things which we call evil are good, and that the things which we call good are evil. There is no knowledge of anything. We can but bow our heads to His will, for God is very strong. He breaketh in pieces the strong together with the weak, for He regardeth not any man.

    FIRST JEW Thou speakest truly. Verily, God is terrible. He breaketh in pieces the strong and the weak as men break corn in a mortar. But as for this man, he hath never seen God. No man hath seen God since the prophet Elias.

    HERODIAS Make them be silent. They weary me. (223-225)

    The Jews, it seems, have truly had the fear of God instilled in them.

    THE VOICE OF JOKANAAN He shall be seated on his throne. He shall be clothed in scarlet and purple. In his hand he shall bear a golden cup full of his blasphemies. And the angel of the Lord shall smite him. He shall be eaten of worms.

    HERODIAS You hear what he says about you. He says that you shall be eaten of worms.

    HEROD It is not of me that he speaks. He speaks never against me. It is of the King of Cappadocia that he speaks; the King of Cappadocia who is mine enemy. It is he who shall be eaten of worms. It is not I. Never has he spoken word against me, this prophet, save that I sinned in taking to wife the wife of my brother. It may be he is right. For, of a truth, you are sterile. (308-310)

    Here, again, Herod's denial and deflection only confirms his fear of death and powerlessness.

    HEROD No, no, she is going to dance on blood! There is blood spilt on the ground. She must not dance on blood. It were an evil omen.

    HERODIAS What is it to thee if she dance on blood? Thou hast waded deep enough in it…

    HEROD What is it to me? Ah! look at the moon! She has become red. She has become red as blood. Ah! the prophet prophesied truly. He prophesied that the moon would become as blood. Did he not prophesy it? All of ye heard him prophesying it. And now the moon has become as blood. Do ye not see it? (335-7)

    Herod's habit of seeing bad omens everywhere is another sign of his insecurity.

    HERODIAS Oh, yes, I see it well, and the stars are falling like unripe figs, are they not? and the sun is becoming black like sackcloth of hair, and the kings of the earth are afraid. That at least one can see. The prophet is justified of his words in that at least, for truly the kings of the earth are afraid… Let us go within. You are sick. They will say at Rome that you are mad. Let us go within, I tell you. (338)

    Though Herodias may say it in jest, "the kings of the earth" really are afraid, whether or not she is. Whether or not Herod's fear is based on fact, it speaks to the power of Jokanaan's prophecies.

    HEROD He is a holy man. The finger of God has touched him. God has put terrible words into his mouth. In the palace, as in the desert, God is ever with him… It may be that He is, at least. One cannot tell, but it is possible that God is with him and for him. If he die also, peradventure some evil may befall me. Verily, he has said that evil will befall some one on the day whereon he dies. On whom should it fall if it fall not on me? Remember, I slipped in blood when I came hither. Also did I not hear a beating of wings in the air, a beating of vast wings? These are ill omens. And there were other things. I am sure that there were other things, though I saw them not. Thou wouldst not that some evil should befall me, Salomé? Listen to me again. (367)

    Here we see again that Herod's fear is not motivated by certainty, but by insecurity. Jokanaan "may be" a prophet—and that's all it takes to have Herod shaking in his boots.

    HEROD [Sinking back in his seat.] Let her be given what she asks! Of a truth she is her mother's child. [The first soldier approaches. Herodias draws from the hand of the Tetrarch the ring of death, and gives it to the Soldier, who straightway bears it to the Executioner. The Executioner looks scared.] Who has taken my ring? There was a ring on my right hand. Who has drunk my wine? There was wine in my cup. It was full of wine. Some one has drunk it! Oh! surely some evil will befall some one. [The Executioner goes down into the cistern.] Ah! wherefore did I give my oath? Hereafter let no king swear an oath. If he keep it not, it is terrible, and if he keep it, it is terrible also. (371)

    In the end, not only Herod, but his super-scary executioner Naaman is frightened to death by the prophet Jokanaan. If that's not proof of his power, we don't know what is.